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in 2010 with funding from 
Lesley University, Sherrill Library 



Lesley U 

30 Mellen Street 

Cambridge, MA 02138-2790 



Submitted by 


In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of 
Doctor of Philosophy in Expressive Therapies 



May 21 


v \ff 



Vera Heller 

May 21, 2007 

Exile, Identity, and Artistic Creation: 

An Arts Based Phenomenological Study with Immigrant Women 

This arts based phenomenological study with immigrant women explores the 
migratory and creative processes from the perspective of the Hero's archetype, viewed by 
Jung as a template for individuation. Its objective is to gain further insight into the 
contribution of art therapy to healing the fragmentation of identity inherent in the transition 
between two - often radically different - cultures. A feminine variation on the Hero's 
myth, the tale of Innana, the Goddess of the upper world who descended into the 
underworld to meet her shadowy sister, is evoked in relation to the participants' journey. 

The process of re-constructing identity through the joint approaches of narrative 
story-telling and image-making are examined. The participants' chronological and 
"imaginal" narratives are organized into six case studies, which uncover the contribution of 
the aesthetic experience and creative process to healing, defined as the achievement of a 
sense of self-cohesion and growth, or as the union of opposites in the psyche. 

The emerging finding of this research concerns the role of collage-painting in 
facilitating the integration of two or more cultures into a new, hybrid identity. By 
assembling fragments of images through collage, and then by creating linkages between 
them through painting, the participants are brought to integrate disparate life experiences 
into a new whole, thus achieving a higher level of coherence within their life-stories, and 
therefore, in their psyches. 



I have many thanks to offer, for many people participated in the process of writing 
this dissertation. First of all, I wish to thank the members of my doctoral committee - my 
senior advisor Dr. Julia Byers, Ethne Gray and Dr. Susan Spaniol - who provided me not 
only with sage advice, but also with their encouragement during the moments I needed it 
the most. Through their humanism, wit, extensive commentaries and editing suggestions, 
they contributed to enriching both my thinking, and the content of my dissertation. I also 
wish to thank Caroline Heller, Vivian Speiser, Philip Speiser and Mariagnese Cattaneo 
from Lesley University, and Deidre Meintel, from the Antropology Department at the 
Universite de Montreal, for having inspired me through the courses and seminars they 
offered, which eventually led me to developing this specific project. Thanks also to 
Michele Forinash, Gilda Resmini-Walsh, Sandy Tulipano, Marie Gannon, Jane Bess and 
Fabrizia Chiampa, for having helped me to undergo the various stages that led to the 
completion of this process. Thanks to all the immigrant women who participated in this 
research project; through their dedication to the process, their unique images and 
reflections, they enriched my perspectives on both the migratory and creative journeys. 

Thanks to the Canadian Research Funds (FCAR: Fonds Canadiens pour la 
Recherche), for having provided the additional financial assistance that permitted me to 
complete my project. 

I wish to warmly thank my friend and colleague, Gony Halevi, and her husband, 
Shmuel Halevi, for having opened their home, hearts, and thoughts to me; without their 
welcoming presence, my commuting to Cambridge would have never been the same. 
Thanks to Hadass Harel for her companionship, and our exchanges about our doctoral 
projects, to Susy Veroff, for having so thoroughly read my last draft and having provided 
me with helpful commentaries from an artistic perspective, and Anne Van Den Boschelle, 
without whom the art therapy workshop at the CLSC Park Extension would have been 
hard to organize, and complete. Other people took part in my journey at different moments 
in time, providing me with emotional support, concrete help and participation, and 
insightful comments: Claudia Bernal, Martin Duckworth, Eveline Heller, Louise 
Dessertine, Boualem Zidi, Francoise Gagnon, the administration and social workers of 
CLSC Park Extension, Eleanor Duckworth, Danuta Berger, Paul Wise, Hafedh Mili, Amel 
Delaggi, and Eve Shapiro. 

It is difficult to express in words the importance of my husband Luis'contributions; 
his listening capacity, his intellectual and emotional support, his patience and his love 
rendered possible the completion of this project. I'm deeply grateful for his presence in my 

This dissertation is dedicated to my husband, Luis Alberto Lopez Herrera, who 
emigrated from Peru to Quebec, Canada; my father, Ernest Heller, who, quite late in his 
life emigrated from Romania to Israel; and my mother, Steliana Diana Firanescu, who 
stayed in her native Romania, only to witness its profound transformation as a result of the 
failure of the "iron curtain" that used to isolate the Eastern European countries from the 
rest of the world. Their unique journeys inspired me and gave me the courage to undertake 



Patricia's Journey: a Summary 

Table 1: Patricia's Chronological Narrative p.151 

Table 2: Patricia's Imaginal Narrative p. 152 

Table 3: Patricia's Opposites p. 153 

Nahla's Journey: A Summary 

Table 4: Nahla's Chronological Narrative p. 166 

Table 5: Nahla's Imaginal Narrative p. 166 

Table 6: Nahla's Opposites P- 168 

Delia's Journey: A Summary 

Table 10: Delia's Chronological Narrative p. 209 

Table 11: Delia's Imaginal Narrative p. 210 

Table 12: Delia's Opposites P- 212 

Locating the Researcher 
Figure 1 : Untitled (Alia) 
Figure 2: Untitled (Alia) 
Figure 3: Untitled (Alia) 
Figure 4: Vera Heller, Untitled, 1986 
Figure 5: Vera Heller, "Sisyphus # 1," 1987 
Figure 6 : Vera Heller, "Rites of Passage # 6," 1989 
Figure 7: Vera Heller, "Rites of Passage # 5," 1989 
Figure 8: Vera Heller, "The Improbable Discovery," 2000-2001 
Figure 9: Vera Heller, "Mythologies," 2001-2002 
Figure 10: Vera Heller, "The Gods' Anger," 2000-2001 

Literature Review 
Expressions of Identity by Contemporary Professional Artists in Exile 
Figure 1: Liliana Porter, "Alice HI," 1989. Drawn from Lippard, L. R.(2000). Mixed 

blessings: New art in a multicultural America (p. 130). New York: The New Press. 
Figure 2: R. B. Kitaj, "The Autumn of Central Paris," 1973. Drawn from Suleiman, S. R. 
(Ed.), (1996). Exile and creativity: Signposts, travelers, outsiders, backward 
glances (Book cover). Durham: Duke University Press. 
Figure 3 : Shirley Jaffe, "West Point," 1988. Drawn from Suleiman, S. R. (Ed.), (1996). 
Exile and creativity: Signposts, travelers, outsiders, backward glances (p. 51). 
Durham: Duke University Press. 


Figure 4: Zuka, "Olympe de Gouges," 1989. Drawn from Suleiman, S. R. (Ed.), (1996). 

Exile and creativity: Signposts, travelers, outsiders, backward glances (p. 54). 

Durham: Duke University Press. 
Figure 5: Maria Enriquez de Allen, "Quilt Ensemble," 1982. Drawn from Lippard, L. R. 

(2000). Mixed blessings: New art in a multicultural America (p.80). New York: 

The New Press. 
Figure 6: Lanie Lee, "Stellular Storyboard," 1985. Drawn from Lippard, L.R. (2000). 

Mixed blessings: New art in a multicultural America (p. 101). New York: The New 

Figure 7: Sadko Hadzihasanovic, "Self- Portrait with Malrboro," 2002. Drawn from the 

catalogue of the exhibition "Memories and testimonies" (Montreal, 2002) (p. 88). 
Figure 8: Yinka Shonibare, "How Does a Girl Like You Get to Be a Girl Like You?" 1997. 

Drawn from Hopkins, D. (2000). After modern art: 1945-2000 (p. 242). Oxford: 

Oxford University Press. 
Figure 9: Komar & Melamid, "Bayonne Series," 1990. Drawn from "Tracing Cultures" 

(1995), the catalogue of the exibition "Points of Entry" (p. 47). Albuquerque: New 

Mexico Press. 
Figure 10: Dinh Q. Le, "Interconfined," 1994. Drawn from "Tracing Cultures" (1995), the 

catalogue of the exibition "Points of Entry" (p.50). Albuquerque: New Mexico 

Figure 11: Vera Heller, "Dancing on a Cloud," 200-2001. 
Figure 12: Vera Heller, "I Remember," 200-2001. 


Artistic Experience and Healing 
The Artist as Wounded Healer 
Figure 13: Ethiopian rolls, XVIII Century. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). 

L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 87). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 14: Ex-voto. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). L'art medecine 

("Art as Medicine") (p. 88). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 15: Henri Matisse, "Fauteuil venitiens et fruits" ("Armchair, blinds, and fruits"), 

1942. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). L'art medecine ("Art as 

Medicine") (p. 148). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 16: Henri Matisse, "Le fauteuil rocaille" ("The Rubble Armchair"), 1946. Drawn 

from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") 

(p. 149). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 17: Henri Matisse. Drawn from Bernard, J. & Donnay, B. (199). Variations sur la 

creation ("Variations on creation") (p. 20). Le Pommier-Fayard. 
Figure 18: Sam Francis. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). L'art medecine 

("Art as Medicine") (p.l 19). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 19: Sam Francis, "Untitled," 1951. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). 

L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 156). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 20: Sam Francis, "Grand Rose," 1951. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. 

(1999). L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 157). Paris: Reunion des Musees 



Figure 21: Sam Francis, "Large Yellow," 1952. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. 

(1999). L' art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 159). Paris: Reunion des Musees 

Figure 22: Fernand Leger, Decoration for the dining room of the steam ship "Vulcania" 

(model), around 1951. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). L'art 

medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 154). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 23: Fernand Leger, Mosaic decoration for Saint-L6 Hospital (model), around 

1955. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). L'art medecine ("Art as 

Medicine") (p. 155). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 24: Antoni Tapies, "Pintura No. XXVIII" ("Painting No. XXVIII"), Drawn from 

Antoni Tapies (1998) (Figure 9). Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafa. 
Figure 25: Antoni Tapies, "Forma de Crucificado" ("Form of Crucified"), 1959. Drawn 

from Antoni Tapies (1998) (Figure 26). Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafa. 
Figure 26: Photograph of Antoni Tapies. Drawn from Antoni Tapies (1998). Barcelona: 

Ediciones Poligrafa. 
Figure 27: Antoni Tapies, "Figura-paisaje en rojo" ("Landscape-Figure in Red"), 1956. 

Drawn from Antoni Tapies (1998) (Figure. 25).Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafa. 
Figure 28: Antoni Tapies, "Materia en forma de axila" ("Underarm shape"), 1968. Drawn 

from Antoni Tapies (1998) (Figure 23). Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafa. 
Figure 29: Antoni Tapies, "Armchair," 1987. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. 

(1999). L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 127). Paris: Reunion des Musees 



Figure 30: Antoni Tapies, "Chair," 1983. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). 

L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 127). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Figure 31: Antoni Tapies, "En forma de silla" ("Chair Shape"), 1966. Drawn from Antoni 

Tapies (1998). (Figure 27). Barcelona : Ediciones Poligrafa. 
Figure 32: Antoni Tapies, "Bandaged Arm," 1971. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, 

T. (1999). L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 164). Paris: Reunion des Musees 

Figure 33: Antoni Tapies, "Laundry Basket," 1993. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, 

T. (1999). L'art medecine ("Art as Medicine") (p. 165). Paris: Reunion des Musees 

Figure 34: Joseph Beuys. Drawn from Walther, I. F. (Ed.), Art of the 20' h century (Vol. II) 

(p. 555). Koln: Taschen. 
Figure 35: Joseph Beuys, "Fat Chair," 1963. Drawn from Walther, I. F. (Ed.), Art of the 

2Cf h century (Vol. II) (p.553). Koln: Taschen. 
Figures 36 and 37: Joseph Beuys, "Montre ta blessure" ("Show your Wound") (detail), 

1980. Drawn from Frechuret, M. & Davila, T. (1999). L'art medecine ("Art as 

Medicine") (pp. 180-181). Paris: Reunion des Musees Nationaux. 
Aesthetic Experience and the Unconscious 
Figure 38: Mark Rothko, "Untitled," 1957. Drawn from Walther, I. F. (Ed.), Art of the 20"' 

century (Vol. I) (p. 291). Koln: Taschen. 
Figure 39: Mark Rothko, "Untitled," 1961. Drawn from Hunter, S. (1980). Masters of 

twentieth century art. New York: Abbeville Press. 


Figure 40: Giorgio De Chirico, "The Disturbing Muses," 1916. Drawn from 

Mollwo, M. A. (1978). Surrealism and Dadaism. (p. 44). Oxford: Phaidon Press 

Figure 41 : Jackson Pollock, "Number 4," 1950. Drawn from Walther, I. F. (Ed.), Art of 

the 20th century (Vol. I) (p. 268). Koln: Taschen. 
Figure 42: Giorgio De Chirico, "The Seer," 1915. Drawn from Walther, I. F. (Ed.), Art of 

the 20th century (Vol. I) (p. 134). Koln: Taschen. 
Figure 43: Marc Chagall, "Moses Receiving the Tables of Law," 1950-1952. Drawn from 

Cassou, J. (1982). Chagall, (p. 106). Paris: Somogy. 
Figure 44: Juan Miro, "Night Flight. " Drawn from Bernard, J. & Donnay, B. (1999). 

Variations sur la creation ("Variations on creation"), (p.45). Le Pommier-Fayard. 
Figure 45: Juan Miro, "The Poetess," 1940. Drawn from Walther, I. F. (Ed.), Art of the 
20 th centuty (Vol. I) (p. 150). Koln: Taschen. 

Analysis Part I: Six Heroine's Journeys 


Figure 1: Untitled 
Figure2: Untitled 
Figure 3: Untitled 
Figure 3: Untitled 
Figure 4: Untitled 
Figure 5: Untitled 
Figure 6: Untitled 
Figure 7: Untitled 



Figure 1: "I don't Fit in, whether in the Past, Present, or Future" 

Figure 2: "The Sun of my Country Bathes Fields, and Seas" 

Figure 3: "I Carry you in my Arms" 
Figure 4: "I'm Bathing in the Sunlight" 
Figure 5. a: Untitled 
Figure 5: "I Emerge, and I soar" 
Figure 6: "The altitudes" 

Figure 1 : "A Glance" 
Figure 2: Untitled 
Figure 3: "Sick Imagination" 
Figure 4: "Itinerary from elsewhere to here" 
Figure 5: Untitled 
Figure 6: Untitled 
Figure 7: Untitled 
Figure 8: "Yellow Leaves" 

Figure I: "On Board" 
Figure 2: Untitled 
Figure 3: Untitled 
Figure 4: Untitled 


Figure 5: Untitled 
Figure 6: Untitled 
Figure 7: Untitled 
Figure 8: Untitled 

Figure 1 : Untitled 
Figure 2: Untitled 
Figure 3: Untitled 
Figure 4: Untitled 
Figure 5: Untitled 
Figure 6: Untitled 
Figure 7: Untitled 
Figure 8: Untitled 
Figure 9: Untitled 
Figure 10: Untitled 
Figure 1 1: Untitled 
Figure 12: Untitled 

Figure 1 : Untitled 
Figure 2: Untitled 
Figure 3: Untitled 
Figure 4: Untitled 
Figure 5: Untitled 




Figure 6: Untitled 
Figure 7: Untitled 
Figure 8: Untitled 
Figure 9: Untitled 
Figure 10: Untitled 
Figure 1 1 : Untitled 







Contemporary Perspectives on Identity, Exile, and Artistic Expression 19 

Expressions of Identity by Contemporary Professional Artists in Exile 44 

Artistic Experience and Healing 49 

3. METHOD 106 

An Arts Based Phenomenological Approach 106 

Data Collection 109 

Data Analysis 130 


Searching for the the Juste Milieu: Patricia 141 

"I Emerge and I Soar": Nahla 154 

The Lost Paradise: Amanda 169 

A Culture "In-Between": Delia 188 

Death and Rebirth: Estrella 213 

Looping the Loop: Mara 231 


Theme I: Immigrant Women's Experience with Self-Identity and Exile 254 

Theme II: Aesthetic Experience and Healing 276 

Theme III: Creative Process and Healing 280 


APPENDIX A: Glossary 300 


APPENDIX B: Terre d'Accueil: A Pilot Project at the CLSC Park Extension, 

Montreal 305 

APPENDIX C: Terre d'Accueil: Rapport du projet-pilote d'art therapie au 

CLSC Pare Extension, Montre'al 308 

APPENDIX D: About the author 331 



The Problem 

Papastergiadis (2000) describes the migration of the millions of people that are 
currently on the move throughout the world as the "turbulence of migration," a phenomenon 
that has progressively intensified during the past half century. In this context, the integration 
of the successive waves of newcomers has become a major issue, not only for the 
individuals who experience the migratory process, but also for the host societies. Such 
concepts as "exile" and "identity" are of poignant actuality today and capture the public 
attention with increasing insistence. As the Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf (1998) points 
out, due to the rapid changes that took hold at the end of the twentieth century, the figure of 
the "immigrant" - or stranger - has become a metaphor of today's way of life in a global 

Understanding the experience of uprooting and displacement from the point of view 
of those who lived it becomes of major importance for all those who, in their daily lives, will 
cross more and more often the ones who come from elsewhere. The purpose of the arts- 
based study that will be described in this dissertation is to enhance this understanding 
through (a) exploring the problem of identity as experienced by a group of immigrant 
women, and (b) proposing the approach of art therapy as a possible healing solution to it. In 
addition to the traditional interviewing approach, my research project includes the 
participants' hands-on experience with the art therapeutic process. Benson (2001) wrote that 
understanding people's perceptions with regard to their identity implies gaining access to the 
way they imagine their place into the world. 

In their continuity, the images produced during several weeks by the participants in 
this project allow the viewer to grasp in a direct manner the immigrant women's complex 
and deep experiences with uprooting and identity. In addition, the images produced during 
the art therapy workshops designed for this study recount the progression of the psychic 
processes that have lead to a redefinition of their perceptions of who they are. The feminist 
art historian Lucy Lippard (2000) wrote that by revealing and reinforcing one's sense of 
identity, self-expression through art plays a transformative role in one's re-appropriation of 
personal power. 

In art therapy, few studies explore the immigrant women's experiences with the 
migratory process, and to my knowledge, no research addresses women who have been 
living in the host country for more than ten years. The above reason, combined to my own 
interest in the topic as an immigrant woman art therapist and visual artist, have lead me to 
undertake this phenomenological exploration of several women's experiences with the 
phenomenon of exile and of the meaning they ascribe to these experiences. 

Although the concepts of exile and identity have been defined and debated in 
profusion from the perspective of psychology, anthropology, cultural studies and art history, 
they have received limited attention in art therapy. Although, the topics of immigration, 
cultural diversity, and race have been explored more recently in books such as "Art 
Therapists, Refugees and Migrants: Reaching across Borders" (Dokter, 1998) in which 
contributors from various countries offer a collection of fascinating descriptions of 
intercultural art therapy experiences. Many of them emphasize the role played by art therapy 
in healing trauma and in reconstructing the clients' sense of self-identity. They point out the 
importance for the art therapists to develop an awareness of diversity issues and develop a 

broader understanding of their practice with immigrants. "Tapestry of Cultural Issues in Art 
Therapy" (Hiscox & Calish, 1998) offers numerous chapters that explore topics such as 
ethnic and racial identity, communication between cultures, educational issues in relation to 
multicultural perspectives and the experience of acculturation viewed from the perspective 
of the art therapist. As its title indicates, the book "Art Therapy, Race and Culture" 
(Campbell, Liebmann, Brooks, Jones & Ward, 1999) explores topics of race, racism, and 
culture as experienced in art therapy and examines the effects of art therapists' racial 
perception of themselves and their clients. 

The Purpose 

The purpose of this arts-based phenomenological research is (a) to describe six 
immigrant women's experiences with construing identity in the context of exile, and (b) to 
examine the contribution of art therapy in helping them integrate this experience into their 
actual lives. 


My first assumption is that the process of immigration begins with the person's sense 
of fragmentation of the perception of self, followed by a gradual reintegration of various 
aspects of one's former identity into a new whole. Fronteau (2001) describes the 
phenomenology of the migratory experience as a "pendulum dynamics" between inside and 
outside, subjective and objective, emotional and rational, imagination and reality leading the 
immigrant through a process of deconstruction and then reconstruction of his or her identity 
under the form of a composite amalgam that incorporates ingredients of both cultures, past 
and present. Fragments of narratives, childhood memories, homelands imagined from a 
distance, old and recent obstacles, joys, disillusions, and new discoveries all constitute 

pieces of a disorganized puzzle from which the immigrant must create a new identity 
without any reassuring map to follow. The phases of the migratory process typically lead the 
individual through an initiatory process that eventually results in a profound transformation. 

My second assumption is that art therapy has the capacity to overcome fragmentation 
and to enhance the process of re-appropriation of self identity. In addition, because of its 
visual component, art therapy facilitates one's understanding of how this process of 
psychological re-integration takes place. By offering the opportunity to tell one's life story 
through both language and images - a narrative process that allows various points of view to 
coexist - the art therapeutic process contributes to renovating and conferring a sense of 
coherence to one's identity. Whereas talking about one's inner experience may - at least 
initially - follow a rather linear logic, artistic expression allows the person to acknowledge 
sensations, emotions, feelings, and images as they emerge from one's unknown depths. 
Because of its specificity, which is anchored into both imagination and language, art therapy 
has the capacity to help displaced women recreate a new sense of balance between the 
original and the host cultures, between their inner and outer realities, their past and present, 
and their conscious and unconscious. This approach contributes to developing one's sense of 
individuality. As Dewey (1980) states, the role of art is to consolidate all the artist's 
experiences into a coherent whole. 

Locating the Researcher 

Travel, migration and movement invariably bring us up against the limits of our 
inheritance. We may choose to withdraw from this impact and only select a 
confirmation of our initial views. In this case whatever lies on the other side remains 
in the shadows, in obscurity. We could, however, opt to slacken control, to let 

ourselves go, and respond to the challenge of a world that is more extensive than the 
one we have been accustomed to inhabit. (Chambers 1994, p. 1 15) 
I have always been confronted with the reality that I could not answer the question, 
"Who are you?" as promptly as others, if at all. I was born and grew up in a bicultural 
family. My father was a Hungarian-speaking Jew and my mother, Christian-Orthodox 
Romanian. I emigrated at first from Romania to Israel and from there to Canada. After 
having been exposed for one year to the English environment of Toronto, I moved to the 
French province of Quebec, at first to Quebec City and then to Montreal. My professional 
life followed a similar non-linear pattern, since for many years I have practised in parallel 
the professions of social worker, art therapist, and visual artist. Although my situation 
implied a certain lack of comfortable certitudes, it nonetheless permitted me to gradually 
feel at ease and even enjoy positioning myself at the point of encounter between several 
perspectives. This trajectory permitted me to integrate into my identity some elements from 
each of the cultures and professions that shaped my life. As a natural consequence, I have 
always been interested in the slow integrative process of absorption that allowed apparently 
unrelated elements to mix together organically to the point of being transformed into a new 
entity. My professional choices have developed in accordance with these interests and my 
dissertation is an attempt to achieve a synthesis between them. 

I first discovered the capacity of art to expand my perspective - on the world and on 
who I was - when I had to make sense of my life as an immigrant. Even though I always had 
an interest in drawing, the real search for a new mode of expression occurred as a vital 
necessity when my previous ways of relating to myself and to the outer environment became 
inefficient. I had to look for an alternative vocabulary that would help me recreate my sense 

of belonging. I felt the urgent need to feed my imagination in order to find meaning. I was 
working as a social worker when I started to envision the possibility of becoming an art 
therapist. However, my need to enhance my own capacity for expression made me shift for a 
time from my initial desire, and prompted me to complete a Bachelor's degree in fine arts 
instead. After pursuing my artistic activities quite intensively for several years, I felt the 
desire to use my experience in helping others; this is how my professional trajectory shifted 
again, this time towards the field of art therapy. 

Recently, a musician from Venezuela shared with me her observation that women in 
exile seem to discover inside themselves a dormant creative potential; some of them develop 
it further and come to integrate it in their lives. Alia - a Kurdish refugee who participated in 
one of my research workshops - shared a story that corroborates this woman artist's 
remarks. Pursued by the Turkish police because of her implication as a social worker with a 
community of Kurdish women, she had to hastily leave her house during the night, and rush 
to the airport (Figure 1). When Alia arrived in Canada, she only spoke Turkish; she felt 
lonely and depressed, and she eventually became ill. As she could not communicate through 
words, she started to draw. Although she never drew previously, she spontaneously did so in 
an attempt to fight her loneliness and the depressive feelings she was experiencing. During 
the workshop, Alia continued the creative exploration of her her sense of being cleaved 
between two worlds (Figure 2). With time, she experienced a partial sense of resolution of 
her inner conflicts, which she expressed as a sense of rebirth (Figure 3), and eventually felt 
less depressed. Alia's investment in art making during the workshop confirmed her feeling 
that this new mode of expression resonated with all the dimensions of her life, and she 
pursued her creative process after the end of the workshop. People have to be exposed to art 

Figure 1 : Untitled 

Figure 2: Untitled 


Figure 3: Untitled 

in order to rehabilitate the role of imagination in their lives, wrote the feminist art critic 
Lucy Lippard (2000). I believe that Alia's story stands as a demonstration of the role of 
imagination in the reconstruction of the exile's identity; her creative journey recalls not only 
these of the other participants to my research project, but also my own. 

More than 20 years ago, I was motivated to explore my identity as an immigrant, a 
woman, and an artist as an undergraduate visual arts student at Concordia University in 
Montreal. At first, I was prompted to produce a series of "dark drawings" that I now see as a 
reflection of my attempt to cope with my fourth adaptation to a different culture in a short 
span of time, and perhaps, as reflections of the inner fragmentation inherent to the migratory 
process (Figures 4, and 5). One aspect of my work that I was only able to observe with 
distance relates to my double identity, which has played a fundamental role in the unfolding 
of my life. The large formats of my paintings obliged me - or so I then believed - to always 
join two pieces of paper together. Despite my efforts to conceive the painting as a whole, the 
split in the middle always led me to treat the two halves differently somehow (Figures 4, and 
5). I now believe that this approach reflected my unconscious struggle to integrate my two 
identities into a whole. When I initially started to paint, I had the feeling that I was searching 
for something vital for me and yet, I was not able to grasp exactly what it was. Then one 
day, after several months of more or less disappointing work, I recognized in my last 
finished dark painting something that I immediately identified as being "me." This 
recognition of some part of myself in the work eventually came to sustain my motivation to 
paint for many years. After a few years of work, my paintings became more colorful and the 
fragments that were part of the former compositions came together into a more coherent 
whole (Figures 6, 7, and 8). 
































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The formats I used for my paintings have followed a process that was similar to that 
of the evolution of the colors. With time, I have progressively replaced the small canvases 
on which I started my exploration with larger surfaces, which allowed me to use my whole 
body in movement. I needed my painting to be physical - for instance, by creating texture 
and using large brush strokes. I still remember the feeling of pleasure of moving without 
restraint in a large space: climbing on a ladder to reach the upper parts of the canvas, coming 
down, stepping back, looking, and then climbing over and over again until the painting was 
finished. More recently, a preoccupation with depth and intimacy has gradually replaced my 
initial need for expressive expansion, and the dimensions of my canvas have started to get 
smaller again. 

Keeping in mind my own experience, I felt prompted to experiment with different 
ways of emphasizing the artistic process and the aesthetic elaboration of the images in my 
approach to art therapy. My interest in the aesthetic aspect of art has its origins in both my 
artistic and therapeutic work. Through the simultaneous practice of painting, on the one 
hand, and of art therapy on the other, I came to realize that struggling with artistic problems 
related to composition, color, lines, and brushstrokes not only generates emotions, but also 
contributes to their resolution and their subsequent psychological integration. I have made 
various attempts to stimulate clients in using the expressive possibilities of the art media 
more extensively and to encourage them to work for longer periods of time on their images. 
For me, the answer to the question of identity came from inside as an urge to create. From a 
distance, I can now identify in my paintings various stages that have lead me to a gradual 
reconstruction of who I am. My simultaneous experiences in studio practice, art therapy, and 


intercultural intervention lead me to the assumption that art is one of the most appropriate 
tools to be used in psychotherapy with people who have undergone the experience of exile. 

Two years before starting the doctorate at Lesley University, I became interested in 
the narrative potential of the medium of collage, and I started to work on a series of images 
on the topic of identity (Figures 9, and 10). At that time I did not suspect that this last 
creative experience was going to play an important role in my doctoral research project. 

The use of an arts-based phenomenological research is a logical consequence of my 
experience as an art therapist, social worker, and visual artist, and my interest in life's 
ontological dimension. This project results from my wish to expand my perception with 
regard to the topic of identity and exile, which I had the opportunity to explore somewhat in 
my previous tasks as a social worker, and as an artist. The novelty for me consists in 
incorporating the aesthetic dimension that characterizes art and the in-depth psychological 
processes that constitute the specificity of art therapy into my more concrete experience. 

Research Questions 

1. What is the immigrant women's perception of self-identity and exile? 

a. What stories do they tell about their migratory process? 

b. How do their art therapeutic processes reflect their perceptions and the 
meanings they ascribe to their experiences? 

c. What are the main aspects of women's experiences with self-identity and 
exile, and how do they participate to the construction of their identities? 

2. What is the contribution of art therapy to the immigrant women's integration of the 
experience of self-identity and exile? 

a. What is the contribution of the aesthetic experience in women's 


self-making processes? 

b. What is the contribution of the creative process to constructing identity and 
creating self-coherence? 

Definition of Terms 
Exile, Identity, and Artistic Creation 

The topic of "Exile, Identity, and Artistic Creation" is concerned with (a) the 
meaning ascribed by several immigrant women to the phenomenon of exile, (b) their 
perception of self-identity in relation to the migratory process, and with (c) their creative 
involvement in the art therapy workshops that provide the framework for this study. 


Aijaz Ahmad's (1992) definition, implying that the words "exile" and "immigration" 
are interchangeable, best illustrates the way in which I use them in the present study. 
According to him, "exile" has been used "first as a metaphor and then as a fully appropriated 
descriptive label for the existential condition of the immigrant as such" (p. 86). With time, 
the word came to designate "a condition of the soul, unrelated to facts of material life" 
(Ahmad, 1992, p. 86). Ahmad's description of exile as an existential condition of the soul 
recalls Edward Said's (1984), who views exile as "the unhealable rift forced between a 
human being and a native place, between the self and its true home" (p. 49). 

To me, the word exile is broad and suggests multiple meanings. I envision it as 
encompassing feelings, emotions, and one's perspective of existence, in addition to having 
social and political connotations. In comparison, "immigration" appears to me as a more 
concrete notion designating the move from one country to another 


The notion of identity is approached here in its relation to the experience of exile. In 
this specific context, it is viewed as a process involving a degree of fragmentation and even 
the loss of one's identity followed by its reconfiguration, which includes the incorporation 
of new elements acquired during the migratory process. Identity is also envisioned as a 
complex, dynamic, and multifaceted concept that is partially formed through one's social, 
cultural, and ethnic adherences, and partially achieved by the individual's inner work. The 
creative processes of the participants in this study will be explored from two perspectives 
that are both similar and different: that of the Jungian concept of individuation on the one 
hand and of narrative identity on the other. 

For Erikson (1963), one's identity has an integrative function in the individual's life. 
He describes it as a configuration of the self constructed in a psychosocial context, which is 
subject to change with age and other life circumstances. More recently, other researchers in 
psychology have tended to view identity as the individual's own construction of self; they 
have developed the notion of "narrative identity" in which telling stories about oneself 
serves as a means of integrating disparate aspects of one's life (McAdams, Josselson & 
Lieblich, 2006). In contrast to Erikson's somewhat more linear view of identity, some of 
these authors adopt a postmodern perspective according to which identity is "an open-ended, 
dialogical, and narrative engagement with the world, having multiple origins and 
trajectories" (Raggat, 2006). Others believe that multiplicity does not necessarily exclude 
integration and unity of identity, thus emphasizing its dialectical nature (Gregg, 2006; 
McAdams & Logan, 2006). The notion of narrative identity takes on a particular 


importance for this research because each participant's art therapeutic process resulted in 
both a verbal and a visual narrative about their migratory experience. 

Jung's notion of individuation also emphasizes the view of identity as a process. For 
him, the notion of "individuality" is somewhat similar to a more contemporary concept of 
identity. Although he doesn't use the concept of identity as such, Jung defines individuation 
as the process through which a person becomes an "in-dividual," a separate, indivisible 
whole. He refers to the gradual process of detaching from whom one thinks he or she is, 
from one's group identities and assumed roles and persona, in order to find one's unique 
"Self." Individuation takes place through the gradual union of opposites within the psyche, 
which eventually results in a larger whole. 

Immigrant Women 

The term "immigrant women" designate the participants' own definition of 
themselves as such. Their official immigration status (refugees, immigrants, temporary, or 
permanent residents) and the length of their sojourn in Canada were not taken into account 
in forming the three art therapy groups that participated in the workshops. However, later in 
the process, a more homogenous sample of six participants were selected for analysis 
purposes. All the women in the purposive sample were accepted immigrants and have 
sojourned in Quebec, Canada for more than 10 years, although some of them have traveled 
back and forth between the two countries. 

Artistic Creation 

In this dissertation, the term "artistic creation" includes two different aspects: the 
aesthetic experience and the artistic process. Although in reality they are difficult to 
dissociate, they will be examined separately in relation to their curative potential. 


Even though the creative process of the participants in this study does not have the 
same degree of complexity as that of the professional artist, as notes Danchin (1994), the 
creative process is ultimately similar for everyone, the difference consisting in the greater 
number and complexity of processes mediating between the professional artist and his work. 
The author believes that this difference explains why the relation between that artist and his 
or her product appears less obvious than in the case of the less "literate" artists. It is this 
quality of "direct unmediated flow of power between hand and object" that the French artist 
Dubuffet (Lippard 2000, p. 76) appreciates in the work of non-professional artists. Recalling 
Beethoven's definition of the artistic experience as an act of communication "from the heart 
to the heart", Hall's (1994) comment on the naive artist Makka, a Lithuanian immigrant to 
Canada, emphasizes his capacity to create an art coming "straight from the heart." 


The conclusions of this study describe the perceptions of a limited and specific group 
of participants, and cannot be generalized to immigrant women at large. The research is 
concerned with the migratory experience and creative process of a group of women who 
have sojourned in their host country for more than 10 years. Like most immigrants' 
itineraries, theirs' are not linear. The study of the psychological implications of the earlier 
phases of the migratory process (i.e. adjustments to the new living conditions in the initial 
arrival, the first, second, third year, etc.), would have resulted in different findings. 

In order to gain a picture of the diversity of individual experiences related to exile, the 
age of the participants and the ethnic origins of the women selected for this sample vary. 
From the outset of this study I was aware that each person's country of origin and cultural 
background influences her perception of the migratory process. I was equally aware that 


aspects such as midlife issues, life threatening events and illnesses, sexual abuse, grieving, 
family background, and social status have an impact on how women experience the 
transition from one culture to another, and integrate to the host culture. In addition, each age 
span implies its own challenges with regard to individuation, and colors women's life 
stories. Although each one of these variables could have been in itself the object of a 
thorough analysis, this study is mainly focused on women's experiences with their migratory 
and artistic processes. I have nonetheless acknowledged the important role played by the 
above biographical aspects in the construction of immigrant women's identities by 
preserving them as part of their narratives. 

Another possible limitation concerns the duration of the workshops. Each of them 
lasted eight to nine weeks. My rationale for this choice was related to my desire to keep the 
participants' attention in focus, and to maintain a high level of attendance. In addition, the 
shorter duration permitted me to offer three workshops, instead of one or two. This choice 
had an impact on the number of immigrant women who participated to the research, thus 
allowing me to acquire a larger perspective on the migratory process. However, spending 
more time with one group would have deepened both the creative and the psychological 
processes, and both the data and the analysis would have reached a greater level of 

Finally, although I made an effort to bracket my possible bias due to my own 
experiences as an immigrant, my own identity likely influenced the group process in various 



In his book Arts Based Research (1998), McNiff suggests that the profession of art 
therapy should enlarge its perspectives by incorporating knowledge from other disciplines, 
including the work of professional artists. In connection with that, he gives the example of 
Jung's (1994) inspiring study of images of doors, in which she draws from various fields in 
order to examine this phenomenon on the ground of art therapy. McNiff s suggestion 
resonated with my own interest in bringing together knowledge from various fields and 
approaching a topic from different angles. Consequently, this review of the literature 
represents a multidisciplinary effort in articulating both ideas and artistic material related to 
the central theme of "Exile, Identity, and Artistic Creation." I have organized the review in 
two broad sections: (a) Contemporary Perspectives on Identity, Exile and Artistic Creation, 
and (b) Artistic Experience and Healing. The two sections are related to each other through 
the idea that artistic expression, as practiced in the framework of art therapy, represents a 
valuable healing solution to the problem of identity and exile. 

Far from being a mere private event that has an impact only on the immigrant's life, 
the migratory phenomenon affects and is affected by the complex interplay of multiple 
psychological, social, economic, political, national, and international factors (Krau, 1991). 
In a globalized world, an individual's identity becomes a complex matter. The first section 
of the literature review, entitled "Contemporary Perspectives on Identity, Exile, and Artistic 
Creation," attempts to take into account this complexity by approaching the topic of identity 
from various perspectives. The contemporary discourse with regard to identity will situate 
this concept in the context of exile. When the migratory process is concerned with the 


transition between collectivistic types of society to a Western, individualistic society, it 
often implies a powerful clash of values, which might constitute a possible explanation for 
the initial fragmentation of the immigrant's identity. When a person emigrates from a 
Western country to another, the confrontation between the two part-cultures might be 
somewhat milder. 

The two most significant perspectives on identity will be offered in this section by 
Jung's concept of individuality on the one hand, and by the more contemporary notion of 
narrative identity. Their importance consists in that they envision identity as a process aimed 
at developing the individual's unique self, rather than as an immutable quality of being. 
These two concepts set the theoretical basis on which the literature review will be further 
developed. However, in order to account for the complexity of this fundamental human 
characteristic, other facets will also be mentioned; as far as immigrants are concerned, the 
notion of "ethnic identity" (Devreux, 1978) and the unifying concept of "hybrid identity" 
(Bhabha, 1996) deserve special attention. 

The immigrant artists' inquiry into the theme of identity will offer some visual 
glimpses into how identity is experienced from inside, and will allow me to create the bridge 
between the question of identity and the healing dimension of the artistic experience. These 
artists' works reflects the common struggle of most displaced peoples in redefining 
themselves according to their new and rapidly changing life contexts that characterize their 

The second section of the literature review, titled "Artistic Experience and Healing," 
attempts to grasp the relation between the artistic experience and healing. According to 
Davila (1999), the clinical efficacy of "art as medicine" consists in its capacity of drawing 


on imagination and on the human being's aptitude for fiction. In Davila's view, the healing 
dimension of art implies the notion of process, which also pertains to health and illness. 

The purpose of this exploration is to acquire a deeper understanding with regard to 
the healing potential of the artistic component in art therapy. Even though in reality the 
aesthetic experience and the creative process are difficult to differentiate, they will be 
examined separately in order to better circumscribe the contribution of each of them. The 
capacity of art to unite body and mind through the aesthetic experience will be underlined in 
relation to its curative power. As for the creative process, it will be argued that, due to its 
capacity to mobilize various layers of the psyche, it has an important contribution to healing 
fragmentation in the artist's psyche. The creative process will also be paralleled to Jung's 
process of individuation as described by the Hero's myth. 

Contemporary Perspectives on Identity, Exile, and Artistic Expression 
Modern and Postmodern Perspectives on Identity and Exile, 
Individuality, and the Process of Individuation 
Unlike most modern and postmodern authors who adopted the concept of identity in 
order to define an individual's unique personality and give account of how it develops, Jung 
prefers the terms "individuality" or "singularity." He views identity as one's identification 
with the collective unconscious or with the persona qualities. "I use the term identity to 
denote a psychological conformity... a characteristic of the primitive mentality and the real 
foundation of participation mystique... the original non-differentiation of subject and 
object. . .a characteristic of the mental state of early infancy, and . . .of the unconscious of the 
civilized adult, which, in so far as it has not become a content of consciousness, remains in a 
permanent state of identity with objects (Jung, 1971, p. 741). The functions of the persona 


are to facilitate social adaptation; forming unconscious attachments and identifying with 
significant people and groups in one's life is an important phase of early development. 
However, if it is not made conscious as a mask, the persona will eventually undermine the 
process of individuation (Stein, 1982). 

Jung defines individuality in opposition to identity, that is, as the psychological 
uniqueness of a person. According to him, a person's individuality (or singularity) results 
from the process of individuation, which consists of a gradual incorporation of one's 
unconscious contents into his or her consciousness. Jung (1971) defines individuation as "a 
process of differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality" 
(p. 757). He associates the two main phases of individuation to the first and the second 
halves of one's life. Their respective tasks being opposite, they stand to each other in a polar 
relationship; "at the stroke of noon the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal 
of all the ideals and values that were cherished in the morning" (Jung 1990, p. 170). That is, 
whereas the first half of life involves expansion and adaptation to outer realities, the second 
requires reduction to the essential and adaptation to one's inner reality. As the central 
authority of the psyche, the Self stands behind both phases (Jacobi, 1967). 

During the first half of one's life is formed the persona (a segment of collective 
psychology facilitating adaptation to the outer world) and the shadow (the sum of all the 
qualities that were neglected or rejected while the ego was being built up). The main task of 
the first phase of individuation consists in growing and crystallizing the ego out of the Self 
on the one hand, and in the conscious realization of the shadow on the other. In view of the 
difficult tasks that await the individual during the second phase of individuation - the 
confrontation with the archetypal powers and the contrasexual figures represented by 


animus/anima - the consciousness is strengthened through the integration of the opposites 
represented by ego and shadow. This process is illustrated in myths and fairy tales; the hero 
always needs a friend, which represents his own shadow side, as an ally to help him to 
overcome the dangers he or she encounters during his or her journey (Jacobi, 1967). 

Whether gradual or sudden, the transition between the first and the second phases of 
individuation is of primary importance in that it involves a conflict between the onset of 
biological and psychic ageing as well as the urge for further spiritual and psychic 
development. Often, this period of transition is accompanied by various changes that disturb 
one's life, for instance, divorce, change of profession and /or residence, financial losses, and 
physical or psychic illness. One is confronted with the reality of death. Jung believes that 
the intensive confrontation between the ego and the unconscious which is precipitated by 
suffering leads to the broadening of one's psychic maturity and eventually to 
transformation. (Jacobi, 1967). 

After having broken away from the Self during the first half of one's life, the ego 
must re-establish its connection with the Self during the second half. This task is achieved 
through the confrontation with the unconscious features of the anima and animus, two 
archetypal powers that give access to the deepest layers of the psyche. The second phase of 
individuation is a systematic, step-by-step confrontation between the ego and the contents 
of the unconscious, from which emerge the most important symbolic and archetypal figures 
(Jacobi, 1967). 

Jung associates the ego's dramatic confrontation with the unconscious to "the quest 
of the hero," which he views as a paradigm of individuation. The ego's descent into the 
darkness of the unconscious is depicted in most hero myths as a journey into the 


underworld; on various occasions, Jung has associated it with the myth of the "night sea 
journey," or to the "whale dragon myth." The hero's entry in the belly of the whale is 
envisioned by Jung as "death" - a necessary regression to the creative womb - and his re- 
emergence after having confronted various dangers and having come to terms with, as 
"rebirth" - a renewal of personality leading to transformation (Jacobi, 1967). 

In Jung's vision, becoming separate and distinct is the human's most basic impulse - 
a matter of life and death - for undifferentiation leads to dissolution into nothingness. 
Nonetheless, although he views it as a natural process, he points out that individuation has 
to be consciously experienced and shaped by the individual. The individual who must 
supplement individuation through inner work - an opus contra naturam - which consists of 
observing the messages and images that arise from the unconscious and giving them their 
due. One of the main tasks of individuation is to establish a constant contact between the 
ego and the Self. This union of unconscious and conscious content results in the 
transcendent function, viewed by Jung as the essential core of individuality. The main 
method for creating the transcendent function is active imagination which, according to 
Jung, consists of working on the unconscious images and fantasies that are potential 
attributes of the individual but to which the ego does not have access. He describes active 
imagination as an open dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious sides of the 
psyche, a dialogue during which they take turns until a third entity - the transcendent 
function - emerges as a new synthetic psychological structure that unites the two opposites 
(Jacobi, 1967). 

The images arising during the practice of active imagination offer hints for further 
development of conscious attitudes. They are different from the images that emerge during 


the prior analysis of one's identity (viewed by Jung as persona and anima/animus identities; 
they relate to early development and are constrictive to one's individuality). In active 
imagination, the images emerge from the depth of the unconscious matrix; they are 
archetypal and compensatory to the predominant ego attitudes. They expand individuality 
and offer totally new psychological options (Stein, 1982). The whole individual emerges 
with the transcendent function. 

Uniting symbols such as the mandala, the circle, the square, the flower, the cross, the 
wheel, the sphere, the pearl, the diamond, the crystal, the chalice or the child may arise from 
the unconscious, but, depending on the situation, everything can become a symbol of the 
Self, which one recognizes because of its numinosity (a compelling force of attraction that 
implies a not-yet-disclosed meaning). They represent a union of opposites, and are vehicles 
of the transcendent function (Jacobi, 1967). 
Modern Views on Identity 

The modern concept of identity has its origins in the work of Erik H. Erikson (1957), 
which emphasizes the individual's simultaneous tendency toward differentiation on the one 
hand, and toward social conformism on the other. From a developmental perspective, 
Erikson (1976) describes identity as a dynamic process that evolves through various 
"identity crises," which manifest during times of transition from one life stage to another. 
He also believes - like Jung when he spoke of individuality - that identity is composed of 
conscious and unconscious contents, and that its genuine core is unconscious and accessible 
only through analytic methods. According to Erikson, the conscious aspect of one's sense of 
identity is characterized by a sense of coherence between the physical, mental, moral, and 


sensual selves. The way one experiences oneself consciously must be congruent with the 
others' perception of him or her. 

Erikson envisions identity as both a personal achievement and as a socially 
negotiated self-constructive process. He points out that, from a developmental perspective, 
one can have a social identity without being personally aware of it, for it depends more on 
others than self. In contrast, personal identity is construed for oneself regardless of how one 
is perceived by others. 
Narrative Identity: Modern and Postmodern Perspectives 

According to Erickson (1963), identity has an integrative function, that is, it 
contributes to incorporating the different aspects of one' life into a coherent whole. In a 
similar way, in the Jungian perspective, individuality is constructed through a process that 
tends toward the unification of conscious and unconscious contents into a third entity, the 
transcendental function. Based on the idea that human experience has a storied nature, the 
more recent concept of narrative identity suggests that telling the story of one's life 
contributes to bringing together disparate aspects of the self into a cohesive sense of who 
one is (McAdams, Josselson & Lieblich, 2006). 

The domain of narrative inquiry encompasses approaches that focus on personal 
experience as expressed and communicated in language. The term narrative identity refers 
to the stories people construct and tell about themselves to define who they are. According 
to developmental psychology, in the second year of life the "I" begins to develop as a 
narrating autobiographical self. As we enter adolescence, we start addressing the questions 
"Who am I?" and "How do I fit into the adult world?" and continue asking them throughout 
young adulthood; the stories we tell in response to these questions define who we are. "The 


I tells the story of the self, and that story becomes part of the Me" (Mc Adams, Josselson & 
Lieblich, 2006, p.3). 

The book Identity and Story: Creating Self in Narrative (McAdams, Josselson, & 
Lieblich, 2006) accounts of the complexity of the concept of narrative identity, and the main 
questions raised by the inquiry in this area of study: (a) To what extent narrative identities 
mirror unity or multiplicity in the self ? (b) To what extent narrative identities display 
stability and continuity of the self versus personal growth and development? (c) Is narrative 
identity mainly constructed through individual achievement, or through the contribution of 
the social context, and in what proportion? Various authors attempt to elucidate these 
questions within either a modern or postmodern framework, or from a perspective that 
unifies both points of view. 

Unity versus multiplicity. 

According to Erikson (1959), achieving an integrated ego-identity around a stable 
core is one of the individual's main tasks during adolescence and young adulthood, the 
major objective of identity-building being to provide one's life with unity and a sense of 
purpose. McAdams (1985, 1993, 1996, and 2006) adopts a similar perspective by 
maintaining that the main function of narrative identity is providing a sense of continuity to 
one's life by bringing different aspects of the self together into a unifying whole. According 
to McAdams, the internalized self narratives confer cohesiveness to a life that otherwise 
would remain fragmented and diffuse. However, in contrast with Erickson' description of 
modern identity as a linear, progressive achievement, he envisions it as a process involving 
a dialectic relationship between unity and multiplicity (McAdams, Josselson & Lieblich, 


Gregg (2006) shares McAdams's view that contemporary individuals search for 
authenticity and depth, and find meaning and purpose in their lives through the 
construction, internalization, and constant revision of their life narratives. Gregg points out 
that life stories can sometimes express multiplicity of personal experience through 
dialectical relationships between polarized aspects (e.g. surface versus depth, hot versus 
cold, personal wholeness versus disintegration, control versus chaos), which are brought 
together as opposites. In a similar sense, stories that are apparently articulated around one 
main theme may also display the opposite of this theme, thus engendering multiplicity 
where unity seemed to predominate. Gregg (2006) promotes the idea of multiplicity within 
unity through Levi-Strauss's notion of bricolage, which illustrates how multiple pieces are 
assembled into a whole: "the bricoleur labors not systematically as would a scientist but as a 
handyman, jerry-rigging a solution with the materials he finds at hand" (p. 73). Gregg's 
perspective unifies modern and postmodern theories by emphasizing the dialectical nature 
of narrative identity, through which multiple images of the self relate to each other like 
thesis and antithesis. 

In contrast, other authors adopt a postmodern vision, characterized by a preference 
for multiplicity over unity, surface over depth, and role playing over stable selfhood. For 
example, Hermans (1996) views identity as a "polyphonic novel" containing multiple 
selves. The modern belief that narrative identity has primarily an integrative function is 
challenged by postmodern dialogical theories, which envision identity as an "open-ended, 
dialogical, and narrative engagement with the world, having multiple origins and 
trajectories" (Raggat, 2006, p. 32). "With this view narrative identity is more like a 
cacophony of competing interests or warning historians than it is like a nucleus with a 


single voice, Raggat writes. Rather than expressing a single theme or point of view, 
narrative identities today express multiplicity, conflict, and opposition (the good versus the 
bad voice, the optimist versus the pessimist and so on), all of which become part of the 
structure of the self. Raggat (2006) notes that the "problem of identity" has become so 
complex that "the discipline has largely left these ideas to the novelists, biographers and 
artists, perhaps because it is so difficult to study a human subject that is shifting positions, 
caught between conflicting stories" (p. 33). 

Stability versus growth. 

Growth is defined by Freeman (1991) as a process of "rewriting the self," which 
results in new, causal connections that transform the individual. According to Freeman, in 
order to reshape his or her life story, the individual must remain open to reinterpreting the 
meaning of past experiences over time. Freeman's perspective is shared by Habermans & 
Bluck, (2000), Habermans & Paha (2001) and Linde (1993), who view establishing causal 
connections between one's life experiences as an interpretive strategy for creating 
coherence within the life story (Pals, 2006). 

In the same line of thought, McAdams (2001) notes that reinterpreting past negative 
events in a constructive manner infuses one's life story with meaning, and insures a sense of 
self-coherence. He views life stories as dynamic constructions that people revise as they 
encounter new life experiences, in an effort to achieve a higher degree of coherence and 
stability in their identities. McAdams (2001) points out that, from this perspective, the 
notion of "coherence" allows for the coexistence of many different and potentially 
contradictory self-defining narratives, a view which is consistent with most postmodern 
theories (Pals, 2006). 


Following the above authors, Pals (2006) states that the way in which one interprets 
negative events of the past has a causal impact on the development of the self, and 
determines whether growth is limited or promoted over time. Reviewed in a constructive 
manner, painful experiences can eventually become "a powerful source of resilience, growth 
and transformation" (p. 181), and may lead to reconciling negative and positive into an 
integrative story of self-development. The author argues that, by making the impact and 
exploration of one's most negative experiences the central point of one's life story, the 
person creates a "springboard effect" of positive self-transformation. 

Self versus society. 

According to McAdams, Josselson, and Lieblich (2006), the interplay between 
individual agency and social context in narrative identities is still poorly understood today. 
They point out that, although developmental psychologists such as Baldwin (1897), 
Vigotsky (1978), Barresi (2004) and Barresi and Moore (1996) have suggested that personal 
identity is always construed out of one's social identity, many authors still tend to 
emphasize either the individual agency in the construction of the self (Baumeister, 1986), or 
the social construction of life narratives (Rosen wald & Ochberg, 1992, Shotter & Gergen, 
1989; Thome, 2000). 

However, the field of narrative inquiry recognizes the contribution of the social 
context in the construction of identity, thus unifying the psychological and social points of 
view. For instance, Bruner (1990), Gergen (1994), and Gergen & Gergen (1983) point out 
that before starting to think of ourselves as unique individuals, we identify ourselves as 
members of one or several groups. When we eventually form a personal narrative of 
identity, it is always in relation to these groups. Cohler & Hammack (2006) describe 


narrative identity as part of the larger dialectic between person and society, "less as fixed in 
psychological time and space than as a narrative rewritten across the course of life, which 
provides a sense of personal coherence and vitality in the context of social change"(p. 167). 
The "Narrative of the Soul": A Depth Psychology Perspective on Identity 

Accounting of the processes that participate in the construction of identity would 
appear to me incomplete without Hillman's (2005) concept of the "narrative of the soul." 
According to him, during the therapeutic process, the clinician has access to two types of 
narratives: one of them concerns the client's chronological history, and the other- which he 
calls "the narrative of the soul" - consists of a series of metaphorical images evoked by the 
person in the course of therapy, and includes the comments that he or she makes about them. 
In his view, the existential fabric of the person's experience is formed by the two narratives 

Hillman describes the narrative of the soul as construed through the integration of 
fragments of clinical material that are later "digested" and transformed into "subtle matter" 
through the processes of imagination. He views it as an evocation of fictional, "inner 
landscapes," with no obvious relation with the outside world, and no linear direction in time. 
Following Corbin's remark that a narrative accounts for an adventure that unwinds in the 
world of imagination, Hillman (2005) describes the soul's way of constructing its own 
biography as a careful "collage of events," which are digested through an imaginal process. 

Narrative Identity and Immigrant People 

For Campbell (1967) and Pearce and Kang (1987), myths are stories that people tell 
in order to explain themselves to themselves, thus providing answers to the questions "Who 
am I?" and "Who are we?" Pearce and Kang (1987) view the stories and "travelers' tales" 


shared by immigrants as modern equivalents of myths, and underline the importance of 
developing new forms of communication, based on the learning opportunities offered by the 
immigrant people's stories. According to them, they are the stuff on which it is possible to 
build significant knowledge with regard to cross-cultural adaptation. 

In every traditional society, there have been unusual persons - shamans, artists, 
visionaries - whose typifications worked inside and outside their cultures 
simultaneously. Today, the communicative skills demanded only of the atypical 
artists, leaders or priests in traditional societies are demanded of us all. There is an 
unexpected source of help. The unprecedented movement of people among nations 
that has occurred in modern times has created a large population practiced in 
intercultural adaptation. The experience of people who have confronted a novel 
culture and learned to cope with cultural pluralism in their own experience can 
serve as a basis for identifying the skills necessary for those whom modernity has 
made immigrants in their own homes. (Pearce & Kang, 1987, p.40) 
Displaced people's complex narratives appear to be partly composed of real-life 
events, another part consisting of a mixture of fantasized and mass-culture elements 
conveyed by both their original and host cultures. Pearce and Kang compare contemporary 
narratives with the myths of traditional societies; both provide answers to the question of 
identity. Similar to myths, they tell us something about displacement, disorientation, and 
agency in the contemporary world (Appadurai, 1990). In a qualitative study of Italian 
immigrants in Canada, Peresini (1991) notes that by drawing out events and historical 
contexts of one's life, the narrator makes meaning in a way that corroborates his or her 
social identity. He also observes that the narration acquires certain autonomy in relation to 


the "real" life history, and appears partly as a fiction that gives access to the narrator's 
current identity. 

If the nature of language usually imposes a more linear or rationally structured 
account; images present the advantage of clustering significant events and imaginative 
fragments in more organic ways. As it will be demonstrated below, the literature on exile 
and creativity suggests that many expatriated artists have succeeded in transforming the 
experience of displacement into a process of personal transformation. 
Contemporary Views on Identity and Exile 

Since immigration is "a process consisting of a continuum of events both in the life 
of the individual person and in the wider framework of the nation, only in the light of this 
continuity [do] the contradictory, and often apparently illogical behaviors of the social 
actors in the immigration drama begin to make sense", writes Krau (1991, p. xxi). This 
statement brings into question the traditional psychotherapeutic approach, which tends to 
view the issues related to the migratory process in their intra psychic dimension only. As 
mentioned by Bhabha (1989), the phenomenon of globalization has largely contributed in 
changing individual, group, and national identities, with the result that even people who 
have never been displaced from their home territory have gradually become "strangers" in 
their own country. 

Other authors (e.g. Bauman,1997; Dessewiffy,1998; Gupta & Ferguson, 1992; 
Hall, 1991; Said, 1979) share Bhabha' s vision of a global world dominated by a pervasive 
sense of alienation, strangerhood, and rootlessness, in which confusion and disorientation 
with regard to one's identity is shared by everyone to a greater or lesser degree. Gupta and 
Ferguson (1992) point out that the "generalized homelessness" (Said, 1979) of the 


contemporary world has become almost everybody's reality. Although refugees, migrants, 
and exiles are the first ones to live out these experiences in their most complete form, 
growing numbers of people experience a sense of symbolic homelessness, for sooner or 
later their ancestral culture will radically change. "Now there are few settled places left, and 
the still settled residents wake up to find the places to which they belong no longer theirs," 
writes the sociologist Zigmunt Bauman (1997, p. 29). 

Gupta and Ferguson (1992) underline the role of migration in the creation of new 
forms of identity, which cease to relate to the appropriation of space. The authors maintain 
that the accelerating mobility of people and the fluidity of cultural practices result in a sense 
of rootlessness, and a loss of the distinctive cultural features of localities. In the same line of 
thought, Hall (1987) notes that an identity "formed on the move," at some provisional point 
of encounter between subjectivity and culture, replaced the clarity and the certitudes about 
where one comes from and to where one belongs. 

The phenomenon of globalization is associated, and even equated by some authors 
(Appadurai, 1990; Hall, 1991) to postmodernism. Appadurai suggests that the two concepts 
are "close to the central problem of cultural processes in today's world... The world in 
which we now live seems rizomatic - calling for theories of rootlessness, alienation and 
psychological distance between individuals and groups..." (pp. 2-3). Similarly, Bauman 
(1997) underlines the lack of continuity and coherence in today's life, which he describes as 
a series of short games with rules that "keep changing in the course of playing." This 
situation has important consequences on the formation of contemporary identities. The 
modern strategy of identity building, which Bauman compares to a "pilgrim's journey" in 
"a kind of world in which footprints are engraved for good so that the trace of past travels 


are kept and preserved" (p. 23), becomes useless. Today, the pilgrim is replaced by 
postmodern heroes such as "the stroller, the vagabond, the tourist, and the player," whose 
relation to time and memory is no more than "a flat collection or an arbitrary sequence of 
present moments" (p. 24). According to Bauman, the postmodern identity has gradually 
transformed into a "desert", in which the traces of one's steps are erased as soon as they are 
imprinted. In the desert, "it becomes virtually impossible to patch the trodden stretches of 
sand into an itinerary, let alone into a plan for a lifelong journey." (p. 23). 

From Bauman's (1997) perspective, the current fragmentation of time, space, and 
human relations is not a matter of choice, but the inherent condition of postmodern life, 
which has become too incoherent to be grasped through a cohesive model. In this context, 
"one thinks of identity whenever one is not sure of where one belongs, when one is not sure 
how to situate oneself in relation to the variety of behavioral styles and patterns that are 
proposed" (p.19). Bauman (1997) quotes Kellner (1992), who defines postmodern identity 
as a "freely chosen game, a theatrical presentation of the self (p. 23), and Lasch (1992), 
who views it as a costume that can be adopted and discarded at will. 

In the same line of thought, Chambers (1994) describes identity as an open and 
fragmented construction that is partly created in our imagination. The author imagines 
identity as an invented narrative with no final destination or referent outside of language. 
His definition evokes the postmodern notions of pastiche, characterized by flatness and 
bricolage of pieces borrowed from different styles, as well as textuality, defined as the 
breakdown of the relationship between signified and signifier, and therefore, between 
surface and depth (Fischer, 1986; Connor, 1989). Chambers views exile as a "discontinuous 
state of being" (p. 42) and comments that 


to live elsewhere means to continually find yourself involved in a conversation in 
which different identities are recognized, exchanged and mixed, but do not vanish. 
Here differences function not necessarily as barriers but rather as signals of 
complexity. To be a stranger in a strange land, to be lost, is perhaps a condition of 
contemporary life. ..Faced with a loss of roots, and the subsequent weakening in the 
grammar of 'authenticity', we move into a vaster landscape. Our sense of belonging, 
our language and the myths we carry in us remain, but no longer as 'origins' or 
signs of 'authenticity' capable of guaranteeing the sense of our lives. They now 
linger on as traces, voices, memories and murmurs that are mixed in with other 
histories, episodes, encounters (pp. 18-19). 

Chambers' (1994) description seems to suggest that the hypothetical and/or the real 
exile maintain a continuous dialogue with his or her environment and with oneself. 
According to the author, this dialogue facilitates the progressive incorporation into the 
person's identity of both the fragments of his or her initial make up that have been 
preserved along the journey, and the pieces that he or she will pick up at random from the 
host environment(s). Chambers envisions the experience of displacement as "a potent, even 
enriching motif of modern culture, for exile crosses borders and breaks barriers of thought 
and experience" (p. 38). Carter's (1992) description of the postmodern world, in which 
homes are only provisional, and in which "living" means adopting an "authentic migrant 
perspective", is similar to Chambers. For Carter, the metaphors of movement, exile, 
migration, maps, travel and tourism describe this reality in an accurate way. 


Exile and the "Postmodern Condition " 

Today "strangerhood" and "exile" have gradually become metaphors that describe 
the society at large, whilst not so long ago they were known as difficult conditions 
involving disorientation and self-division. According to Hoffman (1988), such a change of 
perspective results in forgetting that the newcomer represents a minority confronting a 
majority. In reality, despite all the changes brought about by globalization, the immigrant's 
position as the outsider who does not have a "history," and the right to own the land has not 
changed. As long as the newcomer is regarded as a stranger, he or she is exposed to 
rejection and cannot be part of the community or a member of a historical nation or state. 
Although it is true that the newcomer becomes the outer representative of the ancient 
archetype of the stranger through which the modern individual is given the opportunity to 
rediscover himself, it is still necessary to establish a clear distinction between the outer 
stranger and the introverted, alienated self. 

In Hoffman (1988) and Dessewiffy's (1998) view, attaching a positive connotation 
to such notions as instability, marginality, absence, and outsideraess, leads to occulting the 
difficulties that are an intrinsic part of the "real" immigrant's experience. According to 
Legault (2001), many of them experience the first steps of their journey without benefiting 
from the psychological distance that would allow them to perceive its richness. The 
contribution of the migratory process to personal development might come later, when one 
has already dealt with the basic needs related to one's material and psychological survival. 

Criticizing the idea that the "postmodern condition" is an historical fate that cannot 
be changed, Buttler (2002) argues that this condition should be resisted, lest it transforms 
into a "kind of ironic indifferentism." He suggests that the apparently irreconcilable modern 


and postmodern ideas can be unified in a third possibility that contains both: "the idea that 
the self is socially constructed in all sorts of different ways does not seem to be able to 
destroy the idea that people are individuals who make up the unique narrative of their lives" 
(p. 121). Buttler's remark recalls the idea of unity within multiplicity promoted by several 
researchers in the field of narrative psychology. 

The necessity of integrating into a larger whole the often opposite modern and 
postmodern ideas takes on a concrete signification when looked at from the perspective of 
the migratory phenomenon. The notions of modernism, continuity, coherence, community, 
and closeness of human relationship seem to still be associated with the collectivistic 
cultures to which most immigrants and refugees used to belong. The postmodern ideas with 
regard to displacement, rootlessness, strangerhood, and discontinuity apply mostly to the 
individualistic, host cultures. Although it is true, as many authors have been pointing out, 
that the currents of globalization have transformed most countries in deep and unexpected 
ways, the Western and non-Western cultures are still polarized in terms of fundamental 
values. Although individualism and collectivism used to be interpreted as components of a 
"single bipolar product," recent analyses suggest that they may be in fact two separate 
dimensions that represent a culture to a lesser or greater degree (Pillemer, 2000). 
According to Markus and Kitayama (1991, p. 224), individualistic cultures stress 
"attending to the self, the appreciation of one's difference from others, and the importance 
of asserting the self", whereas "collectivistic cultures value the pursuit of common goals, 
group harmony, and shared identities. They favor an approach that involves attending to and 
fitting in with others and the importance of harmonious interdependence with them." At 
first, this reality initially leads to a confrontation between two opposite sets of cultural 


values, and later, to a negotiation between them. When successful, this struggle between 

opposites leads to the integration of the two into a new, hybrid identity. The situation in 

which one of the two becomes predominant, leads either to assimilation or to 


The Hybrid Identity: A "Culture In-Between " 

Initially exposed to what is commonly called a "culture shock," most immigrants 
gradually develop an existential alertness that quickens their learning process (Kim, 1987). 
As strangers, they have to cope with high levels of uncertainty and unfamiliarity and 
acquire a minimal competence in order to be able to function in their host environments. 
Although "the situations of migration may vary in the degree to which the transition is 
abrupt or smooth, voluntary or involuntary, temporary or permanent" (p. 26), most authors 
seem to agree that all individuals in a new cultural milieu share similar adaptation 
experiences (Kim, 1987). One of the most common reactions is grief, which is considered 
as inherent to the process of successful adaptation to a new environment, and which 
involves losing old attachments and developing new ones. Like any grief reaction, that of 
losing one's roots comprises the same typical four stages of denial, anger, depression and 
eventually acceptance (Lin & Al, 1982). 

According to Peresini (1991), the very moment in which an individual envisions the 
eventuality of emigrating constitutes the distinct point of rupture with one's past and with 
the world to which one used to belong. One's decision to leave differentiates them from 
those who remain and provokes an important shift in identity; meanwhile, he or she is still 
attached to the group of origin. 


Following emigration, identity may be put into question at any time; its value is 
never established once and for all. Rather, it remains a subject of doubt, ever open to 
question. While other people and their identities are located outside of time, being 
founded on an already given form of belonging, the migrant is subjected to the test of 
time and history (p. 244). 

Once an immigrant arrives in the host country, their identity continues its process of 
transformation, according to a complex interplay of one's past and present experiences. 
One's adaptation, and the way one processes change, depends on their previous psychic and 
cultural make up. However, one's current interactions with both the world left behind and 
with the host culture play an equally important role. The opportunities and the support 
system encountered in the host country, the degree to which one succeeds in developing 
personal and cultural affinities with his or her new environment contribute to the slow 
changes that occur in one's identity. People may consciously choose to preserve some 
aspects of their former identities while discarding others. They may decide, for instance, to 
change their clothing style, to adopt a new profession, or to behave according to some of the 
host society's values, while still identifying in other regards with their ethnic group. 
However, deeper psychological changes, which one didn't necessarily consider, constitute 
the inevitable price that one has to pay in order to adapt to one's new life conditions. And, 
one day, one may realize that the very core of one's identity has been irremediably changed 
(Peresini, 1991). 

Similarly, Auge (1995) maintains that identity is construed through negotiation 
between different "othernesses" and that an identity crisis is always related to a problem 
raised by the relationship to the "other." One of the possible ways of resolving the dilemma 


of belonging to two different worlds is through assimilation, described by Bauman (1998) 
as a way of dissolving into one's environment as a reaction to the pressure of being in exile, 
a way of giving up one's identity on behalf of a "nonidentity." For his part, Dessewiffy 
(1998) believes that the immigrant's efforts to adapt to the new culture are translated 
through an oscillation between the poles of opposition and assimilation. In order to integrate 
into the host society, the immigrant will eventually have to give up, at least partially, his 
former knowledge and self, and this new awareness is usually accompanied by a serious 
personal identity crisis. 

To the unsuccessful attempts to resolve the problem of otherness through either 
opposition or assimilation, Bhabha (1996) proposes the alternative of a social subject 
construed through cultural hybridization. He adopts T.S. Eliot's (1949) view of a culture 
that develops in a new host territory through combining the migrant's culture with the 
cultures of both the host population and immigrants of various origins. The resulting hybrid 
forms the connective tissue between the initial "part" cultures, and is both alike and 
different from them. This "culture-in-between" is described by Baktin (1981) as follows: 
the hybrid is not only double voiced and double-accented... but is also double- 
languaged; for in it there are not only (and not even so much) two individual 
consciousnesses, two voices, two accents, as there are (doubling of) socio-linguistic 
consciousness, two epochs... that come together and consciously fight it out on the 
territory of utterance.... It is the collision between differing points of view on the 
world that are embedded in these forms. ..such unconscious hybrids have been at the 
same time profoundly productive historically: they are pregnant with potential for 
new world views, with new internal forms for perceiving the world in words (p.360). 


Identity and Ethnicity 

Bhabha's (1996) views hybrid identity as a third, autonomous entity that results from 
the union of two opposite cultures. Sommer's description of the immigrant's identity (2004, 
p. 48) recalls the above definition: "Those on the move (go) sometimes back and forth to 
homes... on both sides..., [and] describe themselves as half of one identity, half of another, 
and half of an additional something else." One of the ingredients of the "half-identity" that 
immigrants bring along with them consists in their "ethnic identity," which refers to one's 
sense of belonging to a unique community (Gallissot, 1997). The concept of "ethnicity" 
includes both one's ethnic identity and the group's cultural models. The term refers to two 
aspects of one's identification to the ethnic group: one relates to one's actual belonging to 
the group, and the other to one's own references or the imagined community (Meintel, 
1993). Auriol (1984) views ethnic identity in terms of attitudinal and existential identities. 
A different view is offered by Fisher (1986), for whom ethnicity implies seeing others 
against our own background, and seeing ourselves against the others' background. He 
envisions the process of assuming an ethnic identity as "an insistence on a pluralist, 
multidimensional, or multifaceted concept of self: one can be many things, and this personal 
sense can be a crucible for a wider social ethos of pluralism" (p. 196). 

Fisher (1986) points out that in its contemporary form, ethnicity differs from its 
usual sociological definition in terms of group process (support systems), transition 
(assimilation), or transmission from generation to generation (socialization). The author 
defines ethnicity as an emotionally profound component of identity, an aspect of one's 
essential being, which is transmitted from generation to generation through unconscious 
processes similar to dreaming or to the psychoanalytic transference, rather than through 


language or learning. Fisher (1986) stresses that ethnicity is a dynamic concept which is 
reinvented and reinterpreted in each generation by each individual, thus requiring an effort 
of self-definition. He points out that these processes are out of our immediate control. 
Likewise, Sollors (1996) cites Novak's description of ethnicity as a force constituted by 
emotions, instincts, memory, imagination, and passions that are transmitted on to us in ways 
that cannot be consciously understood. In contrast, De Vos (1982) maintains that ethnic 
identity is composed not only of unconscious elements, but also of rational ones. In his 
view, the tension between the rational and the irrational creates the dilemma of continuity 
versus change, which often results in internal conflicts. He states that in comparison to other 
forms of identity, ethnicity should be seen as a matter of relative priority because of its 
conflictive potential. Fisher (1986) corroborates De Vos' (1982) theory by pointing out that, 
even when repressed or avoided, ethnicity remains potent. He notes that through 
institutionalized teaching ethnicity can easily be rendered "chauvinist, sterile, and 
superficial, something that emerges in full - often liberating - flower only through struggle" 
(p. 207). 

Georges Devreux (1970), the founder of ethnopsychiatry, associates the frequently 
mentioned fascist implications of ethnic movements to the reduction of one's authentic 
identity to a single dimension: one's ethnicity. In his book "Ethnic Identity: Its Logical 
Foundations and its Dysfunctions" (1970), Devreux states that when overemphasized, 
ethnic identity overrides all other types of identities and becomes a "straightjacket." When 
one insists on defining him or herself exclusively in terms of one's ethnicity, all the other 
components of one's identity are becoming deprived of any structuring and stabilizing 
framework, and then mistakenly incorporated within one's ethnic identity. 


The current tendency to stress one 's ethnic or class identity — its use as a crutch - is 
prima facie evidence of the impending collapse of the only valid sense of identity: 
one 's dijferentness, which is replaced by the most archaic 

pseudo-identity imaginable. I do not think that the so-called 'identity-crisis' of our 
age can be resolved by recourse to the artificial props of collective identities: of 
ethnic, class, religious, occupational or any other assistant identity (p. 145). 
In Devreux's (1970) view, construing a group's specificity through overemphasizing 
ethnic identity leads to the negation of each individual's distinctiveness within the group. 
Yet it is the individual's differentiation from the others that confers his or her humanness 
and allows him or her to claim a personal identity. In his opinion, any ethnic discourse or 
sense of belonging that does not recognize this basic fact takes the risk of becoming a 
"closed system," which will slowly turn into total meaninglessness, gradually reducing the 
individual to one-dimensionality. 
The Role of Imagination in the Construction of Identity 

Until recently, notes Appadurai (1996), imagination and fantasy used to be 
associated with the arts and literature or regarded as occasional escapes from daily life. 
Today, they play an active role in the construction of many ordinary people's narrative 
identities. The proliferation of film, television, and video on the one hand, and the 
circulation of people, images, and ideas on the other, have largely contributed to promoting 
imagination as a social practice, with the consequence that many people throughout the 
world are now able to imagine their inner lives from a broader perspective. Fiction plays an 
important role in the life of the contemporary individual. 


Readers of poems and novels can be moved to intense action (as with the Satanic 
Verses of Salman Rushdie) and their authors often contribute to the construction of 
social and moral maps for their readers.... Like the myths of small scale society as 
rendered in the anthropological classics of the past, contemporary literary fantasies 
tell us something about displacement, disorientation and agency in the contemporary 
world.... Many lives are now inextricably linked with representations, and thus we 
need to incorporate the complexities of expressive representation (films, novels, 
travel accounts) into our ethnographies as primary material with which to construct 
and interrogate our own representations (Appadurai, 1996, p. 58). 
Of course, to Appadurai's inventory one can add visual arts; his observation that 
mass media contribute to a large extent to the construction of our identities takes on a great 
importance for art therapists when we try to understand other people's lives, as well as our 
own interpretations. Since imagination is the primary material with which we work, our 
practice has no choice but take into account the expressive representations carried by films, 
novels, and television. For example, one of my clients, a sixteen year old girl, interpreted the 
content of one of her drawings according to Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings"; her art work 
representing a quiet sea scenery took on new significance as she explained it in relation to 
the imaginary world described in the book. In her imagination, the landscape embedded the 
wisdom and moral sense she was longing to encounter in the "real world." Her appropriation 
of an imaginary universe conveyed by the current mass culture also characterized another of 
my young clients, a 10-years-old boy who was a victim of sexual abuse. His identification 
with the character of Harry Potter prompted him to work on a mask and costume that 
represented his favorite hero. The role-playing that followed this creation allowed the boy to 


identify with the qualities that he was admiring in Harry Potter and helped him in coping 
with the consequences of his trauma. 

Appadurai (1990) and Gupta & Ferguson (1992) maintain that today imagination and 
fantasy play an increased role in construing the displaced people's identities. These 
remembered or imagined homelands currently serve as new unifying symbols for the 
community, immigrants use memories of their native lands in order to build their new lives 
in the host country. As Anderson writes, "in the interstices between unfolding lives and 
their imagined counterparts, a variety of imagined communities is formed," writes 
Anderson (1983, p. 182). 

Expressions of Identity by Contemporary Professional Artists in Exile 

The expatriate is in some sense the postmodern hero, as the madman was the 

existentialist hero. The two have in common alienation, but not necessarily fatalism. 

The expatriate, and the expatriate artist in particular, is master of bricolage, of the 

collage of life, keeper in the ongoing present of an album bearing the fragile leaves 

of the past. (Lippard, 1990, p. 122) 

Liliana Porter's collage entitled "Alice III "(1989) (Figure 1), seems to be the visual 
replica of the above citation. Born and raised in Argentina, and currently living in New 
York, the artist uses the character of Alice in Wonderland as the metaphor of her search for 
identity. She introduces shifting signs, rebus-like images, bits of torn paper, painted and 
real books, texts in Spanish and English, and objects and cultural artifacts that seem to have 
been selected from both her past and her present. The search for identity is also expressed in 
the artist's previous artworks, evocatively entitled "The Journey", "The Traveler", and 
"Reconstructions" (Lippard 1990, p. 130). 

Figure 1: Alice III 
Liliana Porter, 1989 


Evoking the French surrealists' exile in New York, Gendron (1996) emphasizes the 
role played by the migratory process in transforming a painful experience into an initiation 
journey, "Exile, for the surrealists, involves the retreat of a psychological subject into a past 
encountered in its violent tension, the retreat of a linguistic subject into the tension of 
writing, the retreat of political consciousness into a resistance to facile solutions" (p. 178). 
In the same line of thought, Wolff (1995, p. 7) wrote that 

Displacement... can be strikingly productive. First, the marginalization 
entailed informs of migration can generate new perceptions of place, and, in some 
cases, of the relationship between places. Second, the same dislocation can also 
facilitate personal transformation, which may take the form of 'rewriting' the self, 
discarding the lifelong habits and practices of a constraining social education and 
discovering new forms of self-expression. 
Nochlin (1998) notes that when it comes to exile, visual artists seem to be better equipped to 
face it than writers, "for the visual world loses less in translation" (p. 37). The author alludes 
to Eva Hoffman's book, Lost in Translation (1989), in which she reports having experienced 
the loss of her mother tongue as a "radical disjoining between word and thing, a desiccating 
alchemy, draining the world not only of significance but of its colors, striations, nuances, its 
very existence" (p. 37). The visual artist's somewhat privileged situation with regard to the 
experience of exile might come from the fact that, as Burgin (1987) suggests an image 
permits to communicate reality in a more direct, precise, and bold manner than words. 

By accounting of the transformative processes of three American artists in exile, 
Nochlin (1998) illustrates how the difficulties of the migratory process can be used as an 
opportunity for self-renewal. One of them is R. B. Kitaj, a painter who was directly engaged 


with the theme of exile. Kitaj "relates his cult of the fragment to his Jewishness, which 
brought him to cast himself in the role of universal exile" (p.43). In the painting entitled 
"The Autumn of Central Paris" (1973) (Figure 2), the artist integrates the notions of 
dispersion and fragmentation in the very structure of his work, emphasizing alienation and 
fragmentation as signifiers of exile. Shirley Jaffe is another artist who used the experience 
of exile as a search for both personal and stylistic independence. Her original body of work 
"could only have developed in exile, away from the known, the familiar, the acceptable, 
from everything that stands for home and that home stands for," writes Nochlin (1998, p. 
52). The author describes one of Jaffe's paintings - "West Point" (1988) (Figure 3) - as 
"abstract deviations from the norm," a "serious play on the borderline of chaos." (p. 51). 
Nochlin mentions that Jaffe's work has often been described through terms such as 
"discord", "dislocation", "disjunction" and "coloristic dissonance"; these notions recall the 
postmodern descriptions of identity. The third artist described by Nochlin (1998) is Zuka, 
an American artist born in Russia, whose exile in Paris put her in contact with her self- 
construed, nostalgic identity as an immigrant in America. "Olympe de Gouges" (1989) 
(Figure 4) illustrates her retrieved memories. 

The above professional immigrant artists' work conveys their preoccupation with 
integrating fragments belonging to two or more cultures into artistic creations that reflect 
their current identities. Connor (1989) suggests that the interest in popular art and mass- 
culture that characterizes postmodernism allows for an integration of cultural images and 
artifacts from the artists' past with elements corresponding to their host environments. 
Maria Enriquez de Allen's work illustrates Connor's statement. Her "Quilt Ensemble" 
(1982) (Figure 5) offers a mixture of two cultures, which is "hybrid but fascinating because 

Figure 2: The Autumn of Central Paris 
R. B. Kitaj, 1973 




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Figure 5: Quilt Ensemble 
Maria Enriquez de Allen, 1982 


Maria's personal vision, with its eagerness and sense of humor, is neither pure Mexican nor 
ail-American, but something in-between, appealing, odd, and new," writes Harold Allen 
(quoted in Lippard 1990, p. 80). In relation to her artwork titled "Stellular Storyboard" 
(1985) (Figure 6), artist Lanie Lee comments that "by collaging different materials and 
images I am trying to connect the mixture of thoughts with intuition in order to resolve 
some of the identity conflicts of growing up with both Asian and American rituals and 
thoughts" (quoted in Lippard, 1990, p. 101). 

The recently expatriated Bosnian artist Sadko Hadzihasanovic uses the myth of the 
cowboy as a symbol of a Utopian ideal in "Self portrait with Malrboro" (2002) (Figure 7). 
The rapid and unfinished drawing, which represents the artist's self-portrait, suggests that 
he has assumed this identity temporarily, until he will adopt yet another persona. 
Hadzihasanovic's visual commentary on identity issues recall Kellner's (1992) view of 
identity as "a theatrical presentation of the self or Lasch's (1992), who imagined identity 
as a costume that can be adopted and discarded at will. In the catalogue of the exhibition 
"Memories and Testimonies," the artist is described by Lerner (2002) as "the foreigner who 
questions our own present and reveals the ambiguities of our seemingly stable foundations" 
(p. 84). 

Whereas modernism was primarily concerned with art's self-discovery - in terms of 
form, subject, and practice - postmodernism recycles many previous artistic forms, notes 
Connor (1989). Although the two currents may overlap or combine in new hybrid forms, 
postmodern art is characterized by the return to previous modes, such as figurative painting 
and symbolism. While modernism used to emphasize the artist's integrity of style, 
postmodernism breaks down this norm. Under the influence of globalization, the 


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Figure 7: Self portrait with Malrboro 
Sadko Hadzihasanovic, 2002 


"universalizing internationalism of modernism is replaced by the sensibility of the world 
village, of ironic cosmopolitanism," remarks Connor (1989, p 93). The work of Yinka 
Shonibare, a British artist born in Nigeria, reflects the "universalizing internationalism" 
mentioned by Connor. According to Hopkins (2002), Shonibare's artwork alludes to the 
postmodern tendency to erase the distinctions between the fine and applied arts. Notions of 
dress, ethnic status, museum-display, and artistic value are brought together in order to bear 
"witness to the cultural hybridities stemming from colonialism" (p. 242). For instance, the 
art installation entitled "How Does a Girl Like You Get to Be a Girl Like You?" (1997) 
(Figure 8) integrates the model of high Victorian dresses with the bright colors of the 
African cloth (Hopkins, 2002). 

One of the stylistic features of postmodernism is the collage. Due perhaps to its 
capacity to hold simultaneous processes of fragmentation and re-integration of disparate 
pieces into a new whole, this technique appears to be privileged by several immigrant 
artists. The collective exhibition "Tracing Cultures" (1995) conveys in an eloquent manner 
the immigrant artists' interest in re-contextualizing photographic images by fragmenting 
them, displacing them, and juxtaposing them with paint and sculpture. Komar and 
Melamid's "Bayonne Series" (1990) (Figure 9), and Dinh Q. Le's "Interconfined" (1994) 
(Figure 10) are two examples of these artistic choices. 

Much of my most recent artwork approaches the topic of identity in a similar way. I 
create my collages by integrating photographs from "The National Geographic" with 
tempera paint. Of course, as I was working on them I was not thinking of the postmodern 
notions of "collage" or "bricolage," but merely attempting to reshape my perceptions about 
my inner and outer worlds. From a distance, "Danse sur un nuage" ("Dancing on a Cloud") 









Figure 9: Bayonne Series 
Komar & Melamid, 1990 

Figure 10: Inter confined 
Dinh Q. Le, 1994 



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(Figure 11) and "Je me souviens" ("I Remember") (Figure 12) appear to me as attempts to 
actualize my identity by re-arranging its different fragments into new configurations. 

"Salman Rushdie once remarked, 'It may be argued that the past is a country from 
which we have all emigrated, and its loss is part of our common humanity,' but went on to 
say that such a universal displacement paled before the situation of emigrants from 
languages and countries" (Solnit,1995, p. 80). Rushdie's reflection reminds us that exile is 
not only a spatial dislocation, but also an expulsion from our own past. 

Artistic Experience and Healing 
Whereas the first part of the literature review has dealt with the "problem" of identity 
by approaching it from various angles, the second part focuses on the artistic experience as a 
valuable remedy to the problem. Nochlin (1998) and Gendron (1998) suggest that art has the 
capacity to turn the difficult experience of uprooting into a meaningful inner adventure. The 
artists' creative processes that have been described in the previous section were intended to 
corroborate this affirmation and confirm the idea that the artistic experience has the capacity 
to heal fragmentation and reinforce self-identity. 

This section attempts to emphasize the efficacy of "art as medicine" by approaching 
its healing dimension from two perspectives: (1) the aesthetic experience and (2) the creative 
process. Although the two aspects are difficult to pinpoint as separate entities, the effort in 
doing so may lead to a deeper understanding of the notion of healing in relation to the 
artistic side of art therapy. Basically, the capacity of art to cure either psychic or physical 
imbalance results from the dialectic between the inner and outer aspects of the creative 
process; the artist's concrete gestures as he or she progressively shapes and improves the art 


object are translated into a cyclic process of psychological integration of his or her various 
experiences into a whole. 

In this study, the artistic creation will be envisioned as a process of individuation. 
The artist's courage, persistence, and continuity in working through the various inner and 
outer difficulties will be compared with the Hero's initiatory journey in search of a "treasure 
hard to attend". In the physical world, this "treasure" is embedded into an art object that 
possesses a certain degree of completeness and harmony, and is echoed in the artist's 
psychic world by similar qualities. The interplay between inner and outer elements leads to 
the eventual unification of polarities. Form and content, body and mind, conscious and 
unconscious, masculine and feminine become thus incorporated into a third and more 
evolved entity that has the capacity to heal fragmentation. This process of gradual 
integration transforms the individual and invests the art object with meanings that transcend 
its physicality. 

The efficacy of art in healing the body and psyche is demonstrated by numerous 
artists' work and lives. Some of them have been presented by Frechuret and Davila (1999) 
in the exhibition entitled "L'art medecine" ("Art as Medicine"), and commented upon in a 
book with the same title. 

Art as Medicine 
The Jungian Notion of Healing 

From a Jungian perspective, symptoms are viewed as the psyche's natural attempts at 
healing, rather than as pathological manifestations of illness. For Jung, healing is a self- 
regulatory function of the psyche, which is activated by initiation, an inborn psychological 
pattern of change and growth, central to the individual's psychological life. Initiation leads 


to transformation, defined as one's death to a less adequate condition, and rebirth to a 
renewed, and more adequate one. All initiation rites and Hero myths conform to this model; 
this is why Jung views them as templates for the transformation occurring in psychotherapy. 
The psyche's potential for healing is activated every time one dares to "act against natural 
instincts, and allows oneself to be propelled toward consciousness" (Samuels, Shorter & 
Plaut, 1987, p. 82). 

In the Jungian framework, the individual is viewed as naturally religious, an 
inclination as powerful as the human instinct for sex and aggression, and a great healing 
vehicle. Its representative is the Transcendent function, which mediates the reconciliation of 
the opposites in the psyche by means of symbol formation. According to Jung, the 
integration of polarities in the psyche may be symbolized at first by union, and then by the 
appearance of a reconciling motif such as the orphan, or the abandoned child. These 
symbols are considered to be part of the Self, which is the equivalent of the God-image 
viewed in psychological terms. As a central ordering principle of the personality, the Self 
reflects the individual's potential wholeness, which can be partially attained through 
individuation. Because of its capacity to endow one's existence with meaning, the process of 
individuation itself bears a religious significance (Samuels, Shorter & Plaut, 1987). 

For Jung, the necessary condition for healing is sacrifice, viewed in either its literal 
or symbolic sense. He envisions sacrifice as the price we pay for consciousness, since 
nothing can be gained unless something is given up. According to Jung, the necessity for 
sacrifice is involved whenever a conflict between opposites arises from the unconscious. In 
order to grow, the individual is called to sacrifice some cherished old psychological attitude 
for a new and more meaningful one, a renouncement that is often difficult, for he or she 


must give it up as if it were to be destroyed. Jung states that one can never be fully aware of 
the implications of his or her sacrifice at the time when it is made. In traditional 
mythological and religious terms, sacrifice has meaning in relation to a God-image 
(Samuels, Shorter, & Plaut, 1987). 

Jung envisions healing as "a practical art" that includes the notion of compassion, a 
notion understood today as warmth, genuineness, and empathy. Meier (1967) parallels the 
ancient healing practices in the temples of Asclepius to the analytical treatment. The 
Temenos was a sacred closed setting in which sleep was fostered with the hope that the 
patient would have healing dreams; similarly, the analytic setting permits regression and the 
giving up of the conscious functions. The symbolic motif of the "wounded healer" is related 
to the depiction of Chiron, the centaur and teacher of the healing arts, who suffered from an 
incurable wound. As they all have some inner injury, the analysts (and psychotherapists) 
may be viewed as wounded healers. In Jung's view, being aware of one's own suffering is a 
precondition for helping others, whilst perceiving oneself as entirely "healthy" contributes to 
cutting off parts of one's inner world and cleaves one's personality into two irreconcilable 
opposites. In the same line of thought, the analyst who is uniquely aware of his or her 
patients' pathology and who ignores their healthy side deprives them of their potential to 
heal (Samuels, Shorter, & Plaut, 1987). 
Image, Imagination and Healing 

Although at different times Jung used the terms symbol and image synonymously, in 
the long run he considered the image as both prior to, and greater than the sum of its 
symbolic components. In this perspective, the image appears as the material within which 
the symbol is embedded, and to which it serves as both container and amplifier. Jung 


envisioned the image as a concise expression of a psychic situation viewed in its wholeness, 
rather than as a mere illustration of unconscious contents. Jung's most important discovery 
with regard to the image could be that the psyche does not proceed "scientifically," in terms 
of hypothesis and model, but imagistically, by way of myth and metaphor. Series of 
paintings have often been seen by Jung's followers as "a sequential or narrative 
development expressive of a changing psychological condition" (Samuels, Shorter, & Plaut, 
1987, p. 105). 

Despite Jung and his followers' interest in images, the growing emphasis on the 
concept of image may rather be a new phenomenon of analytical post-Jungian psychology, 
notes Samuels (1985). For instance, Hillman (2005) envisions therapy as a creative work 
based on images, which he views as containers of opposites; in contrast, he envisions the 
symbol as a mediator of opposites. According to Hillman, the analytic work consists in a 
process of differentiation, followed by the re-unification of opposites in the psyche through 
the participation of images. From this perspective, Hillman states that, when the patient 
makes conscious efforts to understand each stage of his or her therapy, each new occurring 
image, which represents an enlargement of the original one, always starts off on a higher 
psychological level, and participates in developing a sense of purpose for the process as a 

According to Hillman (2005), painting one's inner images means recognizing their 
existence, and rendering them concrete, a process that proves to be healing not 
only for the psyche, but also for the "imaginary body" (the physical body as perceived 
through imagination). Robertson (2002) explains in a concrete manner how the emotional 


content of our inner images can either heal us or make us sick, thus bringing into light the 
reason why mental imagery can be used to help control different types of illness: 

Our most extreme emotions -fear, joy, desire, anger, despair - are all linked to 
powerful images we visualize... Untamed, these images can worsen anxiety, but when 
used and controlled they can also rein in negative emotions very powerful indeed. 
Visualizers may be more vulnerable than verbalizers to long lasting stress after a 
trauma because the trauma lives on in their mind's eye, perpetuated by their 
visualizing power. But fears are also best tackled in the mind's eye, and you can use 
visualization to change how you feel and overcome your fears (p. 6). 
Art as Medicine 

Everyone's existence is structured by imagination, which is also the source of our 
suffering, maintains Hillman (2005). Therefore, healing must be envisioned as a process that 
addresses imagination. For Davila (1999), the clinical efficacy of art as medicine consists in 
its ability to draw on people's imaginations and capacities for fiction, capacities that are also 
related to health and illness. For instance, the hypochondriac is an individual who becomes 
sick for having imagined it. In Davila's view, the notion of "art as medicine" implies the 
idea of process, which pertains to both the artistic activity, and the health-illness continuum. 
Health as a process is viewed by Davila as an individual's capacity to successfully deal with 
the contradictions that manifest within his or her body, to hold them together, and eventually 
synthesize them. According to him, health implies the courage to confront, follow, revise, 
and act in a positive manner on these contradictory physical events. Davila's definition of 
health as a process is consistent with Jung's concept of individuation as the process of 


confronting, holding together, and eventually unifying contradictory aspects of the psyche, 
and which also implies confrontation, positive action and courage. 

Attempts at understanding the relationship between art, health, and illness can be 
traced back to antiquity, notes Davila (1999). In antiquity for instance, 
Pliny-the-Elder wrote about the curative value of colors, and Galien used to support his 
medical theories through an aesthetic perspective. Galien was preoccupied with such notions 
as beauty, symmetry and proportion, which he viewed as means of preserving one's 
biological balance and health. Aristotle wrote about the therapeutic value of catharsis as 
"purgation" in the art of tragedy, to which he assigned the capacity to treat certain psychical 
pathologies such as melancholia. Aristotle viewed the emotional outpouring that 
accompanied dramatic representations as opportunities for the audience to purge fear and 
pity, emotions that he considered to be prejudicial to personal happiness. He maintained that 
the emotions aroused by art reinforced the individual's moral character. Aristotle argued that 
the healing qualities of purgation were due to the individual's capacity to create fiction, 
which he envisioned as a manifestation of imagination (Davila, 1999). 

Closer to our times, Prinzhorn's (1922) deep interest for the art of the mentally ill 
marked a decisive step with respect to the association between art and medicine. Published 
in 1922, Prinzhorn's book "Artistry of the Mentally Dl"stirred up the interest of modern 
artists such as Max Ernst and Paul Klee. According to Davila (1999) Freud's analogy 
between the analytic method - envisioned as a way of "taking off something from the 
patient's psyche - and sculpture, which is characterized by a similar type of work on a 
concrete, material level, suggests another similarity between the healing role of aesthetics 
and therapy. 


The shamanic rituals of the Navajo and the protective medicine rolls used in the 
Ethiopian rituals of healing are mentioned by Frechuret (1999) as non-Western variations on 
the theme of art as medicine. Both of these approaches imply the involvement of the 
patient's body with concrete images: the Navaho treatment implies installing the suffering 
person on different parts of a painting made on the ground with colored sands and pollens, 
while the Ethiopian rolls envelop the patient from head to feet and protect him or her 
through their talismanic images (Figure 13). The ex-votos (paintings produced with the 
purpose of obtaining a divine favor or thanking the divinity for fulfilling one's wish) 
function like reconnaissance formulas or prayers that are suspended in churches following 
accidents or an illnesses (Figure 14) (Frechuret, 1999). 
The Artist as Wounded Healer 

Many artists have been prompted to initiate and develop an artistic practice by their 
need to heal either a physical or a psychological suffering. Sam Francis and Frieda Kahlo, 
for instance, started to paint as a pass-time while they were immobilized in bed following 
accidents. Others, such as Tapies and Beuys, have reached artistic maturity through their 
conscious choice of re-enacting in their art the powerful dynamics between illness and 
healing. Their intention was to use the healing power of art for both their own benefit and 
for alleviating the suffering of others. 

In their attempt to examine the healing process in the light of the triangular 
relationship between the artist, the viewer, and the art object, Frechuret and Davila 
organized the exhibition entitled "L'art medecine" ("Art as Medicine") in 1999. The thread 
connecting all the artists who participated in this project was their explicit intention of using 
their art to rebalance their psyches or to heal their deteriorated physical health. All the artists 

Figure 13: Ethiopian rolls 
XVIII Century 

Figure 14: Ex-voto 


clearly stated that their art fulfilled a curative function for them and for their public. They 
also emphasized that, for them, the artistic process is at least as important as the finished 

In contrast to the common view that the art of the twentieth century was addressed 
only to "connoisseurs," the exhibition "L'Art medicine" attempts to prove that modern art 
can have a central role in people's lives. Frechuret and Davila (1999) point out that each of 
the two halves of the twentieth century has fulfilled the mission of putting the human at the 
center of their preoccupation in a different way. During the first few decades of the century, 
the art object's "therapeutic properties" were intended to act directly on the viewer, in a 
similar way to the ancestral healing images. In contrast, the second half of the century 
emphasized an artistic practice that became gradually more concerned with searching new 
behavioral procedures that can express the manifestations of the spirit and the reality of the 
body. Therefore, the importance of the finished product has faded out. 

Frechuret (1999) emphasizes the decisive role played by the relationship established 
by the art object between the viewer and the artist with respect to healing. The author 
maintains that the curative function of art applies to both the artist and the viewer. 
According to him, the artist attends to his suffering through creative activity, and the viewer 
does so in the presence of the art object, which reactivates the artistic process that gave birth 
to it in the viewer's imagination. In Frechuret's view, the artist's healing practice has more 
similarities with the therapist's work than with the shaman's mysterious activities; he views 
the artist as a "medicine man" whose professional activity is guided, like that of the medical 
doctor, by knowledge and savoir-faire. 


Matisse, for instance, used to envision painting as a defense against illness and death 
- a manner of treating himself and other suffering individuals. When he painted, Matisse 
constantly sought to verify the curative capacities of his arabesques and waiving patterns. 
Convinced that his canvas possessed therapeutic virtues, he would lend them to friends who 
were sick. His own illness guided Matisse's quest for simplified forms, forcing him to 
express the essence of things rather than their appearance (Figure 15). Out of his pure forms, 
the artist attempted to create compositions that would exert a calming effect on their 
viewers. Matisse's mature work is characterized by the dynamic interplay between creative 
gestures imbued with vitality and a longing for rest. The artist's intention of balancing the 
suffering provoked by illness and melancholia with a sense of tranquility is embodied by his 
metaphor of a comfortable armchair (Figures 16, and 17), which is represented in several of 
his paintings. Because his art engages the body, one of the qualities that have often been 
attributed to Matisse's work is sensuousness. According to Frechuret (1999), it is their 
physicality that confers to Matisse's paintings their curative capacities. The large 
dimensions of his canvas add to their presence and encourage the participation of the whole 

When he found out that Matisse used to lend his paintings to suffering people, the 
American painter Sam Francis recalled that he once painted a large canvas for a friend who 
was suffering of an incurable illness of the pancreas. He brought it to her and asked her to 
meditate everyday on the colors he had intuitively chosen with the hope that they would 
have a curative effect. Although Francis' friend was not healed, her physical pain gradually 
diminished and her condition greatly improved. Like Matisse's, Sam Francis' generalization 
of the therapeutic function of art sprang out of his attempt to overcome his own suffering 




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through the creative process. Francis stated that if he didn't live to paint, he probably would 
have died, because doctors said they were unable to cure him. His experience taught him 
that wounds can be healed "through vision, through the image" (Frechuret, 1999, p. 118). 
When he first started to paint, Francis was immobilized in bed, where he had to lie on his 
stomach in a plaster corset for many months, his spine having been damaged in a plane 
crash. Having no artistic experience, he initially chose painting as a mere pass-time. Later, 
while in a wheel chair, Francis had the opportunity to see original paintings by Klee, 
Picasso, and Miro, which confirmed him in his desire to continue painting. However, 
according to Francis's own testimony, the artworks that fascinated him to the point of 
changing his life were Greco's paintings, which later played a crucial role in his choice to 
become an artist. 

Along with other artists of his time, Francis believed that the universal power of 
colors justified their use as medicine. His research into the curative properties of color gave 
Francis's artistic quest its true orientation. Nevertheless, the artist admitted that it was 
impossible to completely master color and to know all its effects. With respect to his 
capacities as a healer, Francis wrote: "I am hurt. Taking care has always interested me. I was 
taking care of animals. I don't know why. It's my destiny. All this is about an archetypal 
structure (Frechuret, 1999, p. 120). "I'm a shaman of some sort" (Frechuret, 1999, p. 122). 

Sam Francis had to struggle with recurring health problems all his life. Nonetheless, 
he kept working and eventually became one of the greatest painters of his generation. He 
painted on the floor, with movements that involved his whole body (Figure 18). For him, as 
for the other artists described in this chapter, artistic activity represented a way of resisting 
death. Francis firmly believed that the experience he conveyed through his paintings was 


beneficial to all those who came in contact with his work. He wrote that "painting is more 
than art; it is something between poetry, magic, medicine, and knowledge" (Frechuret, 1999, 
p. 122). Ponthus Hulten (1995, p.18) qualified Francis' work of "sympathetic magic, 
imitative magic, homeopathic magic" (Figures 19, 20, and 21). Frechuret (1999) compares 
Francis' work to the old talismanic images that were supposed to heal the viewer's mental 
and physical wounds. 

Like Francis and other artists of the same generation, Fernand Leger was aware that 
colors may either enhance healing or take on dangerous properties, depending on the ways 
in which they are combined. His participation in the Second World War represents the point 
of departure for Leger' s artistic quest. He came to associate the color gray to war and death, 
and black with anguish and anxiety. In contrast, the end of war evoked the brightness of 
vivid colors in his imagination. Leger' s experience with both war and its end influenced his 
perception of color as a vital aspect of life that brings joy and optimism (Figures 22, and 23). 
In accordance with his ideas related to color, one of his projects was integrating color in 
architecture to enhance public health (Frechuret, 1999). 

In contrast to Leger, the Catalan artist Antoni Tapies does not hesitate to use dark 
colors in his work. In doing so, his purpose is to emphasize the presence of illness and decay 
(Figures 24, and 25). This artist maintains that before achieving a state of "static tranquility" 
one must first accept the evidence of destruction. Tuberculosis was as determining for 
Tapies' art as the plane accident for Sam Francis. His art reached a certain level of maturity 
while he was being treated in a sanatorium. Tapies believes that without his illness, his life 
would have taken a different direction. "We often find at the origins of the artistic vocation 
the suffering that has marked the artist. He had to readjust, and it is there that his work has 

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really begun" (Frechuret 1999, p. 129). Through its dramatic dimension, Tapies' art conveys 
the connection between suffering and healing. 

Unlike Matisse, who envisions tranquility in the form of an inviting armchair, Tapies 
rejects comfort and relaxation. His vision of healing requires more than the representation of 
suffering; according to him, suffering has to be actively confronted for the healing process to 
be activated and for reparation to become possible. Tapies' creative process mirrors this 
credo by involving his whole being in a vigorous activity. He begins by marking a canvas 
laid on the floor with traces of steps and parts of a wounded body (Figures 26, 27, and 28). 
Then he integrates various worn out objects that he has "saved from dying" and to which he 
attributes mystical meaning. In exchange for being "saved", the objects must offer comfort 
to others (Figures 29, 30, and 31). The artist envisions the "suffering" of these abandoned 
objects as a metaphor for the suffering of the humanity as a whole, because both need to 
receive appropriate treatment (Figures 32, and 33) (Frechuret, 1999). 

According to Frechuret (1999), Tapies' canvases and art objects may be envisioned 
as transitional objects that bring about positive transformation: "Tapies transforms a canvas 
into a magic object that possesses curative powers similar to those of a talisman as it enters 
in contact with the suffering individual's body, or when it is placed on the body" (p. 130). 
Frechuret compares the artist's canvases to the Ethiopian medicine rolls; both convey the 
same longing for physical contact, which is reflected in the real or imagined act of 
enveloping the whole body (see Figure 13). The healing power of Tapies' art is reflected by 
an anecdote: during the seventies, a man had a heart attack while visiting one of the artist's 
exhibitions. He collapsed and lost consciousness. While laying on the floor in a half-coma, 
he perceived one of Tapies' pieces on the wall and fixed his gaze on it. After a while, he felt 

Figure 26 
Antoni Tapies 

Figure 27: Figura-paisaje en rojo 
Landscape-Figure in Red, Antoni Tapies, 1956 

Figure 28: Materia en forma de axila ("Underarm shape") 

Antoni Tapies, 1968 

Figure 29: Armchair 
Antoni Tapies, 1987 

Figure 30: Chair 
Antoni Tapies, 1983 

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comforted and was able to calm down. The man felt that he drew from Tapies' work the 
strength to resist death (Frechuret, 1999). 

Along with the artists cited above, Joseph Beuys envisioned his art as a medicine that 
could heal him and others (Figure 34). In contrast to artists such as Tapies and Matisse, 
however, he dreamt of saving not only a single individual, but the entire world. Beuys 
explained his capacity to cure others through the fact that he has suffered a personal radical 
crisis during which he had confronted death. He gave his biography a shamanic character by 
describing the trials that entitled him to become a medicine man. He explained that during 
the Second World War, after his chase plane crashed, he has been saved by a tribe of Tartars 
who treated and cured him with grease and felt, elements that became part of his art as 
metaphors for healing (Figure 35). According to Davila (1999), Beuys' story alludes to an 
experience that legitimates his claim of becoming a medicine man in possession of the 
knowledge of life and death. As with the shamans, it is not important to know if the artist's 
story is true, writes Davila (1999); what is essential is that he declares he has gone through 
these trials in order to claim his capacity to heal. Beuys envisions himself as a "medicine 
man", and compares his art to the medicine prescribed by medical doctors. 

Joseph Beuys imagines a global medicine that draws its knowledge from the 
experience of pain and suffering, which he considered to be the only valid experience 
capable of guaranteeing an authentic survival. The artist envisioned the therapeutic role of 
art as transforming suffering into healing through re-presenting the wound. In his work, the 
relationship between suffering and its "signature" is enacted on a strictly formal level. Along 
with the representation of the trauma, his installation entitled "Montre ta blessure" ("Show 

Figure 34 
Joseph Beuys 

Figure 35: Fat Chair 
Joseph Beuys, 1963 

Figures 36 & 37: Montre ta blessure ("Show your Wound") (detail) 

Joseph Beuys, 1980 


your Wound") (Figures 36, and 37) incorporates the principle of homeopathic medicine, 
according to which the remedy is to be found in the illness itself (Davila, 1999). 

Beuys (quoted in Davila, 1999) points out that in order for art to act as collective 
medicine, the re-presentation has to surpass the initial form of suffering and focus on 
treatment. In his view, the Auschwitz victims' trauma teaches us that representing suffering 
in a deliberate and active way prevents humanity from repeating the same act. Beuys' work 
titled "Auschwitz Demonstration" illustrates the way in which meaning is construed through 
the re-presentation of an already existing reality. His installation is composed of a number 
of display windows through which the spectator can read the homeopathic medicine formula 
"illness cures illness" (similia similibus curantur). In this context, the above homeopathic 
formula signifies that illness (viewed by Beuys as the collective suffering resulting from the 
experience of concentration camps) is cured by its representation or "signature." 

Aesthetic Experience and Healing 
The Aesthetic Experience: A Connection between Inner and Outer Materials 

According to the art therapist David Maclagan (1994, 1999), every kind of mark- 
making (e.g. line, color, texture, or compositional coherence) carries multiple psychological 
resonances. The aesthetic qualities of an art object encompass not only its outer, formal 
qualities, but also the inner processes that take place in the artist's inner world. No matter 
whether they are representational or abstract, both the artist and the viewer respond to them 
either consciously or unconsciously. 

For McLagan (1994), the aesthetic experience is difficult to convey, because it is 
often associated with subjective, "interior states" that cannot be objectively described 
through common language. According to McLagan, the deep connection between aesthetics 


and psychological processes creates a supplementary difficulty, for in addition to suggesting 
or expressing feelings, the aesthetic qualities of an art object shape and constitute it. 
McLagan (1994) applies the term "aesthetic" to designate a type of experience that takes 
place at a deep level, which is described by Ehrenzweig (1967) as "so liminal, so on the 
edge of articulation, that we don't know whether to call them 'thoughts', 'feelings', or 
'fantasies'"; behind a certain level of awareness, "there is a kind of shadow, a non figurative 
level ...that is 'inarticulate', but still carries psychological weight". As Dufrenne (1990) 
suggests, it is at this deep level that the viewer identifies with the traces of a painter's 
gestures, by re-creating the artist's creative process in his or her imagination (McLagan, 

Dewey (1980) describes the aesthetic experience as both a connection and interaction 
between inner and outer "materials." According to him, the artist gives concrete form to his 
imagination through physical gestures and procedures, which in turn enhance his capacity to 
imagine. Dewey maintains that the artist's concrete art-making is paralleled in his or her 
psyche by processes that fulfill the function of integrating his or her disparate life 
experiences into a whole. "As the painter places pigment upon the canvas, or imagines it 
placed there, his ideas and feelings are also ordered" (p. 75). 

In Dewey's (1980) view, the aesthetic experience arises out of the organic 
connection between the outer materials (paint, canvas, etc.) and the inner materials (images, 
observations, memories and emotions), which are the vehicle of creation. As an artist works 
on a canvas, her eyes connect what she is doing with her experiences, enabling her at any 
moment to verify whether or not things belong together. Rather than resulting from mere 
intellectual criteria, the artist's appreciation of the degree of completion of his or her work 


results from direct perception. The aesthetic satisfaction of the eye results from the 
relationship between perception and the activity that preceded it. 

Experiencing art according to the aesthetic mode would be impossible without the 
existence of emotions, Dewey (1980) states. For him, real art differs from craftsmanship in 
that it is characterized by the right degree of emotional expression, which he calls mot-juste. 
Whenever an artist becomes overwhelmed by emotions, his or her response to them disturbs 
the equilibrium between the conscious and the unconscious. Rather than contributing to the 
elaboration and the ordering of the art materials, too much intensity brings about a loss of 
control that provokes disorder. For instance, extreme emotions such as rage, fear, and 
jealousy may be translated in an artwork as a lack of balance and proportion. On the other 
hand, an insufficient expression of emotion results in a coldly "correct" final product. 
Dewey defines expression as "the clarification of turbid emotion" through which natural 
emotions are transformed into their aesthetic or expressive equivalent. The aesthetic emotion 
is induced by the physical material and therefore attached to it. 
The Aesthetic Experience: The Artist's and Viewer's Joint Venture 

In Dewey's (1980) view, one of the functions of the aesthetic experience is to 
crystallize the meanings that are scattered throughout various life experiences. Although 
their experience is not exactly the same, both the artist and the viewer proceed in similar 
ways to an inner ordering of the elements that constitute the art object, which they select and 
condense according to their interests. Both make the effort to extract the significant elements 
from the whole, and gather them together into a new entity. The artist incorporates his ideas 
into a concrete object with which he merges in total communion through the act of creation. 


Likewise, the viewer accesses the aesthetic experience only when his or her emotions are 
saturated with the qualities of the art object, and he or she is able to completely fuse with it. 

For Benson (2001), the connection between the viewer and the work of art is an act 
of "positive absorption" of something good into one's self, through which the individual 
comes to embody some aspect of the being that he or she desires to be. Like the previous 
authors, Benson envisions the aesthetic experience as an ongoing process that places an 
existing perspective under a new light, thus prompting the individual to integrate his world 
more fully. The prominent philosopher Gadamer (2000) believes that a spectator who 
recognizes himself in an art object comes to expand its meaning to life-contexts that are 
larger than his immediate ones. In his view, the aesthetic experience enhances one's self- 
understanding and leads to psychological and spiritual growth. Along with Dewey (1980) 
and Benson (2001), Gadamer states that the contemplation of an art object creates a genuine 
dialogue between the viewer and the artist who produced it. 
Aesthetic Experience as Connection between Emotions, Mind and Body 

For Dewey (1980), experiencing an art object aesthetically implies much more than 
merely having one's emotions triggered by it. Unfortunately, Dissanayake (1999) writes, 
although the Western philosophy of art made several attempts to underline that art has an 
emotional component of aesthetic nature, both aesthetic and psychological studies "omit 
aesthetic emotion not only from their tables of contents but even from their indexes" (p. 25). 
Yet, emotional responses to art may be strongly and sensuously experienced by the audience 
on a physical level. Dissanayake (1999, p. 25) corroborates her statements by quoting 
Barzun's (1974), description of such emotional manifestations: 


The experience of great art disturbs one like a deep anxiety for another, like a near- 
escape from death, like a long anesthesia for surgery: it is a massive blow from 
which one recovers slowly and which leaves one changed in ways that only 
gradually come to light. Wliile it is going on, the physical signs of such a magnificent 
ordeal have been reported to include sweating, trembling, shivering, and a feeling of 
being penetrated and pervaded and mastered by some irresistible force. 
West (1977) offers a similar account of a powerful emotional state that 

overflows the confines of the mind and becomes an important physical event. 
The blood leaves the hands, the feet, the limbs, and flows back to the heart, 
which for the time seems to have become an immensely high temple whose pillars 
are several sorts of illumination, returning to the numb flesh diluted with some 
substance swifter and lighter and more electric than itself. . . Now what in the world 
is this emotion? Wliat is the bearing of supremely great works of art on my life which 
makes me feel so glad? 

According to Dissanayake (1999), the evidence that art affects at once our bodies, 
minds, and souls, has been supported by current neuro-physiological findings. These 
findings suggest that the aesthetic experiences result from the same processes that concern 
our cognitive-perceptual-emotional life at large. From this perspective, the communion 
between the viewer and the art object is attributed to the art work literally "writing" itself on 
the perceiver's body electrochemically through patterns of activity that comprise the brain's 
cortical maps, which may in turn have concomitant physiological and kinesthetic effects. 
With Arnheim (1966) and Wolfheim (1968), Dissanayake (1999) associates aesthetic 


experience with the concept of empathy, through which the viewer's bodily feelings are 
projected onto the art object. 

Arnheim (1966) explains our fascination with art through the Gestalt concept of 
empathy, a concept that connects emotions, mind, and body. He defines empathy as the 
human mind's capacity to recognize rhythm, balance, symmetry, and proportion, as well as 
deviations from these. According to Arnheim, our predisposition to perceive and organize 
these elements accounts for our sensitivity to lines, movement, composition, repetitions, and 
variations in the arts. The author suggests that the physical forces we perceive in an object 
are echoed on a psychic level through the dynamics of our perception. For instance, we 
might feel that a particular pattern of muscular behavior is accompanied by an analogical 
state of mind, and vice-versa. According to Arnheim (1966), the projection of a perceptual 
stimulus on the brain - and particularly on the visual cortex - creates a configuration of 
electrochemical forces in the cerebral field that will, in turn, trigger an emotionally-toned 
psychological reaction. Thus, the electrochemical processes in the brain match "iconically" 
with the psychological experience. Arnheim views expression as the psychological 
counterpart of the dynamic electrochemical processes taking place in the brain, which he 
compares to the manner in which a sound calls forth a vibration of a similar frequency in a 
taut string. To reflect this reality, he coined the term "isomorphism." Like Arnheim, 
Wollheim (1968) believes that the perceptual capacities shared by both the artist and the 
viewer manifest on a corporeal level as empathy. He considers them as an intrinsic part of 
human nature: 

When we endow a natural object or an artifact with expressive meaning, we tend to 
see it corporeally: that is, we tend to credit it with a particular look which bears a 


marked analogy to some look that the human body wears and that is constantly 

conjoined with an inner state (p. 28). 

Other authors, such as Melanie Klein and her followers (Faris, 1972; Gibson, 1979), 
have emphasized the bodily origins of aesthetic experience Gibson has developed an 
"ecological" model of visual perception according to which our organism recognizes the 
stimuli produced outside and reacts to them by echoing them within. Faris suggests that our 
aesthetic ideas of balance may ultimately be derived from the symmetry and structure of the 
human body; ears, eyes, arms, breasts and legs come in pairs, and our singular parts, such as 
nose, mouth and genitals, are centered. However, according to Faris (1972), this probability 
did not prevent many societies, such as the Navaho, Hopi, and African, from developing a 
sophisticated asymmetrical balance in their art works. 

After synthesizing various studies related to empathy, Dissanayake (1999) concludes 
that our aesthetic responses are based on art's capacity to echo the natural world. She 
specifies that the abstract and geometrical shapes found in visual arts are not reproductions 
of nature, but rather emphatic responses to its hidden structures. This phenomenon is 
explained by Arnheim through a law of Gestalt psychology, according to which all 
configurations of physical and psychological forces tend towards simplicity. The Tukano 
Indians, for instance, claim that the designs decorating the fronts of their houses replicate 
their visions during rituals that include drinking hallucinogenic substances. According to 
Dissanayake (1999), these designs have a neurophysiological basis; they resemble the 
geometrical patterns of colored light that we "see" when we press on our closed eyelids, 
called phosphenes. 


From a multidisciplinary perspective, Dissanayake (2002) points out that art evolved 
as a means of making socially important activities memorable and pleasurable. In her view, 
even in the absence of representational meaning, the activities of shaping, embellishing, 
repeating, and elaborating are gratifying in and of themselves. According to the author, the 
human need to "make things special" is an inherited predisposition that connects art to play 
and ritual; the activity of taking ordinary things out of their context and making them special 
is intended to heighten their emotional effect, and emphasize their significance. The activity 
of making an object "special" is a major ingredient in art, which fulfils the function of 
drawing attention on its emphatic properties (Dissanayake, 1999). Dissanayake (1999, 2002) 
emphasizes the importance of understanding that the psychobiological substrates of empathy 
permeate our aesthetic experience. She concludes that art is a general behavioral 
predisposition, a biological need which is essential to human survival. 

From a psychobiological point of view, the response to a naturally aesthetic element 
is not considered to be an aesthetic experience unless it is "made special" in a specific 
context. From this perspective, for instance, we can better understand Matisse's wish "to 
invent something that would render the equivalent of my sensation - a kind of communion 
of feeling between the objects placed in front of me" (p. 188). Dissanayake (1999) maintains 
that "what Matisse was aiming for was 'something' that would evoke the presence of 
objects, but not their appearance - the feelings accompanying optical sensation, but not the 
sensation itself (p. 188). She cites Bryson's (1987) comment how Matisse discovered "a 
language that the heart can read - the forms of feeling." Byrson and Flam (1986) suggested 
that, like most artists, Matisse created formal analogues of feelings through aesthetic 


Aesthetic Experience and the Unconscious 

Whereas Dissanayake's (1999, 2002) theory associates aesthetic experience with 
psychobiological processes taking place in the brain, depth psychology envisions aesthetic 
experience in terms of unconscious processes. From a Jungian perspective, aesthetic 
experience is organically related to the deep psychological meaning of the image. Jung's 
collaborator, Aniela Jaffe (1964), states that an individual responds to a painting only when 
his or her unconscious has been moved. She suggests that our response to art cannot be 
entirely explained by its visible form. She supports her point of view by arguing that even 
though nothing in non-figurative art reminds us of our own world, we often still respond to it 
with great intensity. Jaffe compares the role played by the art object, with respect to our 
aesthetic experience, to the presence of a "dark, empty vessel" into which the viewer can 
project the contents of his or her unconscious. The author attributes the capacity of art 
objects to fascinate us to the autonomous "life" that seems to inhabit them, which she 
compares to the old alchemical concept of "spirit in matter." She cites the art critic Jean 
Bazaine, who wrote that "an object awakens our love just because it seems to be the bearer 
of powers that are greater than itself (p. 254). 

From the point of view of depth psychology, the metaphysical notion of a hidden 
meaning or spirit of things is related to the unconscious part of our psyche (Jaffe, 1964). She 
cites Jung, according to whom the unconscious proves its value only when it is balanced by 
the experience of the individual's consciousness; otherwise, it tends to reveal its contrary or 
destructive side. Following Jung, Jaffe (1964) states that consciousness plays the decisive 
role in the interaction between the two poles: "At the root of the inner distress lies the defeat 
(or rather the retreat) of consciousness. In the upsurge of mystical experience, everything 


that once bound man to the human world, to earth, time and space, to matter and natural 
living of life, has been cast aside or dissolved" (p 267). If active unconscious is left to itself, 
there is a risk that its contents will become overpowering. Rothko's art seems to illustrate 
Jung's warning: the mirage of the artist's mystical communion with the unconscious has 
eventually attracted him into a void from which he could never return. With time, Rothko's 
initially luminous veils of color have gradually darkened, and he eventually committed 
suicide (Figures 38, and 39). 

The artists' aspiration to attend to the hidden life beneath the appearances is 
compared by Jaffe (1964) to the alchemists' belief that inanimate objects like metal or stone 
are inhabited by spirit. She cites De Chirico, the founder of metaphysical painting, who 
wrote that "every object has two aspects: the common aspect , which is the one we generally 
see and which is seen by everyone, and the ghostly and metaphysical aspect, which only rare 
individuals see at moments of clairvoyance and metaphysical mediation" (p. 257). In De 
Chirico's view, "a work of art must relate to something that does not appear in its visible 
form" (p. 257) (Figure 40). Another example of the quest for "a secret, primal meaning 
slumbering beneath the world of appearances," writes Jaffe (1964, p. 259), is offered by 
Hans Arp's work. According to the author, Arp's woodcuts of leaves and other forms 
thrown together at random point to "an unknown but active principle of order and meaning 
that becomes manifest in things as their secret soul." 

Another artist whose work reveals the dynamics between conscious and unconscious 
is Jackson Pollock (figure 41). Jaffe (1964) describes his paintings as being 

charged with boundless emotional vehemence. In their lack of structure they are 

almost chaotic, a glowing lava stream of colors, lines, planes and points. Tfiey may 

"2 ON 




























^— ( 



Figure 40: The Disturbing Muses 
Giorgio De Chirico, 1916 

Figure 4 1 : Number 4 
Jackson Pollock, 1950 


be regarded as a parallel to what the alchemists called the masa confusa, the prima 
materia, or chaos, all ways of defining the precious prime matter of the alchemical 
process, the starting point of the quest for the essence of being, (p. 264) 
Pollock revealed that he was in an altered state of consciousness when he painted: 

When I am in my paintings I am not aware of what I am doing. It is only after a sort 
of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about 
making changes, destroying the image, etc. because the painting has a life of its own. 
I try to let it come through. It is only when I loose contact with the painting that the 
result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the 
painting comes out well. (p. 264) 

Unlike De Chirico, Arp, and Pollock, who had a tendency to emphasize the 
unconscious side of their artistic experience, Chagall's work is situated at a midpoint 
between the conscious and the unconscious. As wrote Herbert Read (cited by Jaffe, 1964, p. 
256), Chagall "never quite crossed the threshold into the unconscious, but has always kept 
one foot on the earth that had nourished him, and this is exactly the 'right' relation to the 
unconscious." Whereas De Chirico (Figure 42) - was confronted with the "death of God" 
and with the void left by the absence of religion in Western society - Chagall's poetic and 
mysterious paintings (Figure 43) drew their balance from his Hassidic faith, rooted in a 
warm feeling for life and a sense of community (Jaffe, 1964). 

From a Jungian perspective, the act of creation is controlled by laws of nature, which 
on the deepest level correspond to the laws of the psyche, and vice-versa. According to Jaffe 
(1964), Jung's view of creativity includes figurative as well as "purely abstract pictures 
without any regular order of forms and colors" (p.264); she points out that the symbolic 










meaning disappears as the "reality" gradually dissolves, until the known has completely 
vanished. At the point where nothing is left to form a bridge between the known and the 
unknown, these paintings reveal a similarity to the molecular structure of organic and 
inorganic elements of nature, and "they often turn out to be more or less exact images of 
nature itself (p. 264). Jung's wrote that 

The deeper layers of the psyche lose their individual uniqueness as they retreat 
further and further in the darkness. Lower down, that is to say as they approach the 
autonomous functional systems, they become increasingly collective until they are 
universalized and extinguished in the body's materiality, i.e. in chemical substances. 
The body's carbon is simply carbon. Hence, at the bottom, the psyche is simply 
"world. " (Jaffe, 1964, p. 265) 

The art critic Rene Huyghe (1971) notes that the artist draws the imaginative 
structures that are his "biological roots" from his or her unconscious. The art critics Bernard 
and Donnay (1999) point out that, from the point of view of neuroscience, this is the reason 
why there is a frequent coincidence between the shapes imagined by abstract artists and 
those revealed by the electronic microscope. The two authors point to recent discoveries that 
have shown that certain images produced by modern painters resemble the hidden structures 
of our cells when enlarged by microscope. They give an account of Miro's visit in the 
laboratory of a scientist, during which he was surprised to see images of blood cells on a 
wall, enlarged a hundred thousand times; some of the photographs of red globules were 
amazingly similar to Miro's paintings (Figures 44, and 45). 

Figure 44: Night Flight, Juan Miro 

Figure 45: The Poetess, Juan Miro, 1940 


Artistic Process and Healing 
Ehrenzweig 's Model of Creativity 

Drawing from Melanie Klein's and Marion Milner's theories, Ehrenzweig (1967) 
conceived an analytic template for understanding the creative process in its integrative, 
healing dimension. According to Ehrenzweig's model, the creative work progresses in 
several repetitive cycles, which gradually bring both the artwork and the artist's psyche into 
higher levels of coherence. By creating new linkages between disparate fragments, the 
successive resolution of each cycle leads to achieving, what is called by Ehrenzweig, "the 
hidden order of art." By demonstrating how, through its descent into the unconscious during 
the creative process, the ego gradually integrates disparate pieces of experience into 
consciousness, the author points out to the similarity between the creative and the 
individuation processes - the ultimate purpose of both being the union of opposites within 
the psyche. 

Ehrenzweig's (1967) model of creativity has been partly inspired by Melanie Klein's 
projective identification theory. Klein envisioned human relationships as projections of 
scattered parts of one's self into another person. According to this author, a good 
relationship implies the other person's willingness to accept these projections and make 
them his or her own. Klein compares the projection of one's split-off material onto another 
person to the first phase of the infant's development, which she named "the paranoid- 
schizoid position." She related the reappropriation of the "digested" material to a later and 
more mature phase, which she named "the depressive position." The mother has the capacity 
to assimilate her infant's split-off material, which he experiences as dangerous and 
persecuting; she then integrates the fragments on a more mature level and renders them to 


the baby in an enriched, more tolerable form. According to Melanie Klein, the ego naturally 
alternates between the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position. 

Another author who has greatly inspired Ehrenzweig (1967) is Marion Milner (who 
also wrote under the name of Johanna Field). Milner's writings on creativity echo Klein's 
theory, as Milner (who wrote under the name of Johanna Field, 1987) compares the 
development of a rapport between the artist and his work to a good mother-child 
relationship. She describes the relationship between the two as follows: 

One's relationship to the external world is basically a relationship of one person to 
another or one person 's relationship to things. In the beginning, the mother is, 
literally, the whole world. Looked at in these terms, the relation between the painter 
and his world becomes a reciprocal relation between 'you ' and 'me ', which can be 
translated into the original relation between mother and child, between one 's own 
needs and the needs of the "other. " (p.l 16) 

Milner's (Field, 1987) description of the relationship between mother and child 
recalls Melanie Klein's theory: 

It is true that what one loves most is separate from oneself and that the primitive 
urge of loving is to make what one loves part of oneself. However, in loving it, one's 
primitive wish ends up by destroying it as something having an identity of its own. 
One of the functions of painting is that it goes deeper in its roots than restoring to 
immortal life one 's lost loves, back to the stage before one had found a love to lose. 
(pp. 66-67) 
Milner came to the conclusion that the function of artistic activity is to restore 


one's sense of fusion with the mother while in the womb, when she was experimenting with 
the method of free drawings. She parallels the capacity of creativity to facilitate acceptance 
of both illusion and disillusion to the role of the psychoanalyst; in her view, both contribute 
in a similar way to establishing a richer relationship with the real world. 

Following both the Kleinian model and Milner's theories on creativity, Ehrenzweig 
(1967) compares the artist's relation to his or her work to the relationship between a mother 
and her child during the first stages of the infant's development. His model of creativity is 
divided into three stages (a) the "schizoid" phase (b) the "manic" phase or the "creative 
suspension of frontiers," and (c) the "depressive" phase. According to Ehrenzweig, the 
successful completion of the whole cycle leads to what he calls "the hidden order of art." 
During this process, the naturally chaotic elements contained in the unconscious are 
progressively linked together. The psychic processes are reflected onto the surface of the 
canvas through the gradual integration of disparate pictorial fragments into a more coherent 
whole. With each new repetition of the sequence, both the inner and the outer fragmentation 
are healed at a higher level. 

The schizoid phase. 

Ehrenzweig' s (1967) schizoid phase corresponds to Klein's "paranoid-schizoid 
position." Similar to the child's projection of his split-off psychic aspects onto the mother's 
psyche, the artist projects the unconscious fragments of the self into his work. Although this 
stage may be experienced by the artist as accidental, unwanted, and therefore persecutory, 
the initial fragmentation of the work is a normal and necessary step, writes the author. The 
artist must be capable of tolerating it and working through the associated anxieties. 


The manic phase. 

According to Ehrenzweig (1967), the manic phase, or the "creative suspension of 
frontiers," plays a crucial role in the integration of the unconscious substructure of the work. 
It initiates the process of "unconscious scanning," described by the author as an 
undifferentiated mode of perception that may appear chaotic to one's normal awareness. He 
compares the "unconscious scanning" to Piaget's notion of "syncretistic vision," a diffuse 
but broad way of seeing reality that characterizes the young children's mode of perception. 
This stage corresponds to Klein's "depressive position," in which the mother's unconscious 
acts as a "womb," which assimilates the infant's projections and eventually renders them 
back in a more integrated form. The artist experiences this stage as a "return to the womb," 
during which all differentiation ceases and the previously split-off material is integrated into 
a more coherent whole. During this phase, the superego fuses with the ego. The surface ego 
dives into the unconscious' "oceanic depths" and merges with its deeper layers. This 
process, which is called by Ehrenzweig the "minimum content of art," plays a decisive role 
for the outcome of the work. Depending on the reaction of the artist's rational faculties, he 
or she will experience either chaos or order. 

Marion Milner (Field, 1987) describes one of her own experiences at this level of the 
creative process, which occurred as she was experimenting with free drawing. She describes 
her own "plunge into the abyss," as a moment of "blankness and extinction," which in the 
meantime becomes "the moment of incipient fruitfulness." In her view, although the 
"descent" involves a real danger, it represents nonetheless the unavoidable condition of 
genuine self-expression. "In the abyss, one is awaited by a threatening presence that 
overshadows one's existence that can make you feel as you are nothing, nothing to say, 


nothing to feel, nothing to be" (p. 194). For such moments of blankness, Milner suggests a 
contemplative attitude akin to meditation. She cites the Chinese sage Lao Tze's suggestion 
that "by non-action there is nothing which cannot be affected" (p. 194), which may help one 
to stay with this momentary sense of nothingness. 

Following Milner, Ehrenzweig (1967) maintains that, if one succeeds in tolerating 
the shift from conscious focusing to unconscious scanning, one will merely experience a 
momentary absence of mind that will lead to new and fruitful insights. If, on the contrary, 
one's surface faculties react rigidly and start judging the contents of dedifferentiation too 
soon, the more fragmented imagery situated at a lower level of visualization will appear to 
him as vague and chaotic. 

The depressive phase. 

Ehrenzweig (1967) compares the depressive phase to the secondary revision of a 
dream after waking up, as one tries to recall it with one's rational faculties fully restored. As 
the original structure has been shaped on a lower and less differentiated level during the 
primary process, it may appear to the dreamer as more incoherent and chaotic than it 
actually is. As a result, one is prompted to "fix" the accidents or the textural elements that 
seem unimportant to him, but which may contain the most important unconscious 

Ehrenzweig's (1967) "depressive" phase involves the re-integration of part of the 
work's hidden substructure on a higher level through secondary revision; the chaotic 
substructure of the work is gradually covered up and the still subsisting unconscious 
elements are linked together. The process of secondary revision fulfills three different 
functions. On the one hand, it improves the gestalt of the work, even as it tends to solidify its 


more fluid structure. On the other, it integrates the different levels of the ego functioning. 
The third function involves healing the surface fragmentation, a process parallel to that 
which takes place in the artist's psyche and on his canvas through the interplay between 
conscious and unconscious elements. 

Ehrenzweig points out that, by severing the linkages between the surface and the 
deeper levels of the work, the process of secondary revision diminishes the symbolic power 
of an image, which has been established at a manic-oceanic level. 

On being re-introjected into consciousness, the undifferentiated linkages will 
contract. The symbolic image alone catches the narrow focus of secondary revision 
and the other symbolized object remains repressed. But as long as the unconscious 
linkage persists, the symbolizing image will not be dissociated and remain imbued 
with unconscious meaning and reference. Its symbolic power wanes as soon as its 
unconscious linkage is severed. This will inevitably occur owing to secondary 
processes that tend to dissociate surface imagery from its undifferentiated matrix. 
(Ehrenzweig, 1967, p. 121) 

As the secondary revision proceeds to gradually solidifying the original, more fluid 
pictorial space, the work will tend to lose its generating power. The linkages between the 
surface elements and the undifferentiated matrix below are progressively obliterated, leading 
to the transformation of the newly created elements "into another set of rigid and defensive 
cliches" (p. 121). This process will eventually set in motion a re-enactment of the whole 
cycle of projection, de-differentiation, and re-introjection. 

The "depressive" phase unavoidably triggers feelings of pain, anxiety, and doubt, for 
the final cannot ever fit the artist's initial inspiration, writes Ehrenzweig (1967). But the type 


of anxiety experienced at this stage differs from the one the artist is confronted with n the 
"schizoid" phase in that it is of a depressive, rather than persecutory nature. It reflects the 
artist's humble acceptance that his work is not perfect, as well as his hopes for further 
integration. The triggering of new anxious feelings will lead to a new immersion of the work 
into the unconscious matrix, with the hope of creating further linkages. According to the 
author, as the unconscious cross-ties established on the manic-oceanic level are never fully 
translated into surface coherence, the work of secondary revision is never completed. Thus, 
each new cycle will be accompanied by the ego rhythm of cyclic dedifferentiation and re- 
differentiation, which is translated into alternating manic and depressive feelings. 

Ehrenzweig (1967) compares the artist's experience during the "depressive" phase of 
creativity to a conversation with another living person. That is, the artist must relate to his 
work as if it was an autonomous entity or person. His recognition that his work possesses its 
own independent life is an essential aspect of creativity. It implies a lessening of the 
persecutory fears with regard to taking back into oneself the split-off parts of one's 
personality which are now contained by his painting. 

The Depressive and Manic Poles of Creativity: The Dialectic Relation between Eros and 

Far from pointing to some pathological state due to bipolar illness, Ehrenzweig 
(1967) envisions the terms "depression" and "mania" as representatives of the life and death 
instincts. In his view, they are inherent to creativity and the process of symbol formation 
because their cooperation insures the healthy functioning of the psyche. Unlike Melanie 
Klein, who tends to emphasize the depressive side of creativity at the expense of the manic 
side, Ehrenzweig (1967) believes that, as representatives of Eros and Thanatos, both poles 


are equally important. In his view, they participate equally in the work of creative 
integration: the depressive pole fulfills the function of containing and holding together the 
split-off elements on a conscious level, while the manic pole heals the dissociation between 
several layers of the ego on an unconscious level. According to the author, the role of the 
depressive experience is to achieve the ego's horizontal integration, and that of the manic 
experience is to ensure vertical integration by joining the surface imagery with its 
unconscious matrix. Together they form the basic rhythm that insures the ego's health. 
Regarded from this vantage point, the power of an artwork depends on its capacity to 
convey both levels of experience. 
Psychic Death and the Creative Process 

Ehrenzweig's (1967) model of creativity postulates the existence of a death wish, 
which is expressed through the creative ego's descent into the "womb" during the "manic" 
phase in search of the original experience of wholeness and fusion with the mother. The 
state of rebirth that is experienced by the artist at this stage is translated through a sense of 
"oceanic envelopment" that releases him temporarily from his separate existence. The self- 
regeneration and the emergence of a "hidden order of art" that confers to the work its deep 
coherence depend on the artist's ability to allow his conscious mind to temporarily lose 
control during its plunge into the unconscious. According to Ehrenzweig, undergoing rebirth 
is conditional to a previous working through "dying," an experience that characterizes the 
schizoid phase. 

The Jungian analyst Rosemary Gordon (1978) furthers the understanding of the fear 
of death through the concept of psychic death, which she defines as a psychological state of 
non-being. According to her, one may experience this state as either dissolution or 


transpersonal union. In both cases the person experiences a state of fusion that momentarily 
abolishes the tension between opposites. Although such a non-dualistic state is more natural 
for an infant in the beginning of its life, notes the author, it remains available throughout 
one's whole adult life. Psychic death manifests itself through feelings, fantasies, images, and 
symbols that are experienced by the individual as re-creations of the original experience of 
fusion with the mother. 

For Milner (Field 1987), the artist's capacity to bear long enough the feelings of 
blankness and frustration triggered by the ego's descent into the unconscious, is a test for his 
or her psychological maturity, understood as the full emotional acceptance of death as part 
of one's reality. According to Gordon (1978), one's attitude with regard to death affects 
one's psychological development and growth. In her view, an excessive fear of death may 
inhibit the development of consciousness and the capacity to tolerate change. She suggests 
that many symptoms or behaviors are expressions of or defenses against the fear of death. 

In a similar sense, Milner (Field 1987) wrote that the artist must develop the ability 
to yield his rational faculties, lest 

his sense of the force by which he is lived remains unknown to himself, in the 

infantile stage of domination by ogres and ravening beasts, and the false opposition 

of gods of light and the underworld; and his dependence upon the unseen within 

himself will be a continual torment, (p. 194) 

In her own artistic material, Milner discovered the presence of images that convey 
the fear of being overpowered by the forces of the unconscious. They emit a sense of 
suffering, destruction, and death. 


/ knew that there was some unknown fear to be encountered in this matter of color 
and the plunge into full imaginative experience of it. Later it was to become clear 
that some of the foreboded dangers of this plunge into color experience were to do 
with fears of embracing, becoming one with, something infinitely suffering, fears of 
plunging into a sea of pain in which could become drowned. (Field, 1987, p. 119) 
I believe that Milner's reflections pinpoint one of the main causes of a person's 
creative blocking. By persisting in experimenting with free drawings despite the inevitable 
frustrations, Milner came to realize that if she was able to bear the feeling of blankness long 
enough, the emerging image would be able to convey some aspects of the inner truth she 
previously found impossible to communicate. 

Milner (Field 1987) suggests that self-renewal depends upon one's emotional 
abandon which implies giving up one's whole being and accepting death: "There must be at 
least one moment of blank extinction, a plunge into nothingness" (p. 144). These 
observations led her to consciously conceive a ritual of renunciation to all her expectations 
with regard to the outcome of her work. She compares it to the sacrifice of a king or god in 
ancient times in order for the fertility of the land to be enhanced. 

Whenever I felt the clutch of anxiety, particularly in relation to my work, whenever I 
felt a flood of inferiority lest I should never be able to reach the good I was aiming 
at, I tried a ritual sacrifice of all my plans and strivings. Instead of straining harder, 
as I always felt an impulse to do when things were getting difficult, I said: 7 am 
nothing, I know nothing, I want nothing, ' and with a momentary gesture wiped away 
all sense of my own existence. The result surprised me so that I could not, for the 
first few minutes believe it; for not only would all my anxiety fall away, leaving me 


serene and happy, but also, within a short period, sometimes after only a few 
minutes, my mind would begin, entirely of itself, throwing up useful ideas on the very 
problem which I had been struggling with. (p. 40) 

The creative process is compared by both Milner (Field, 1987) and Ehrenzweig 
(1967) to Frazer's mythological theme of the dying and resurrected god. After having killed 
her son, the mother scatters his body parts and eventually puts them back together and buries 
them in order to ensure rebirth. The central motif of trapping and liberation that 
characterizes this myth is envisioned by Ehrenzweig as an account of the creative mind's 
heroic surrender during the manic phase, during which the artwork functions as a womb that 
gathers and buries the scattered projections of the artist. He envisions the creative process 
from the perspective of the archetypal cycle of death and rebirth, which he describes as the 
ego's search for the Self through its heroic descent into the realm of the unconscious. 
The Role of the Self in the Creative Process 

The Self is defined by Jung ( 1 97 1 ) as the whole range of psychic phenomena in man. 
It expresses the unity of the personality as a whole... In so far as psychic totality, 
consisting of both conscious and unconscious contents... it is a transcendental 
concept, for it presupposes the existence of unconscious factors on empirical 
grounds and thus characterizes an entity that can be described only in part, but, for 
the other part, remains at present unknowable and illimitable, (p. 460) 
Jung envisions the ego as a distinct form, which is included in the totality of the psyche 
represented by the Self. From a Jungian perspective, De Bus (1991) describes the Self as 
having, like all archetypes, a double nature, which contains 


personal and transpersonal polarities like good and evil, female and male, point and 
circle, harmony and dissonance, order and chaos, complexity and simplicity. It both 
contains and is the content of the complete person; it is both where we came from 
and what we aim for; the Self includes the ego, yet the Self can undertake dialogue 
as representatives of the complete person and the more limited personality . (p. 54) 
The role of the ego is to further the realization of Self in the individual's 
consciousness. Jung (1971) describes it as a "complex of ideas which constitutes the centre 
of my field of consciousness and appears to possess a high degree of continuity and identity" 
(p. 425). In his writings, he used to sometimes emphasize the reciprocal relation between the 
Self and the ego, and some other times, the subordinate position of the ego with regard to the 

Marie Louise Von Frantz (1964) points out that initially, the Self is an inborn 
possibility that develops either slightly or completely during one's lifetime, depending on 
whether or not the conscious personality is willing to respond to the "call" of the 

// is the ego that serves to light up the entire system, allowing it to become conscious 
and thus to be realized. If for example, I have an artistic talent of which my ego is 
not conscious, nothing will happen to it. The gift may as well be non-existent. If, on 
the contrary, the individual accepts to turn inwards, he or she may experience the 
feeling that some supra-personal force is actively interfering in a creative way. . . (as 
if) the unconscious is leading the way in accordance with a secret design.... The 
guiding hints or impulses come, not from the ego, but from the totality of the psyche: 
the Self. (p. 162) 


According to Gordon (1978), Jung viewed the individual's psychological 
development as a dialectic relationship between the Self and the ego, or, in other words, 
between the drive towards wholeness and the drive towards separateness. For him, the 
progression from un-differentiation towards a more differentiated psychological state starts 
while the baby is still in utero, by the original experience of mother-child unity. The child 
gradually becomes aware of himself as a separate entity in the world, while the ego and the 
self start to differentiate from each other. With time, the ego becomes associated with the 
life instinct and the drive towards de-fusion and separateness; its symbolic manifestations 
are thus related to the individual's body and personality. As for the Self, it becomes 
associated with the death instinct and the drive towards fusion. The Self generates such 
fantasies as re-entering the mother's breast or belly, or re-fusing with Mother, Nature, or the 
Universe. They reflect on a symbolic level the human wish of returning to the unconscious 
matrix in order to be re-born (transformed). 
The Four Stages of Creativity as Viewed by Rosemary Gordon 

Following Jung, (Gordon, 1978) states that the continuous interaction between the 
life and death forces constitutes an intrinsic part of any individual's psychological life. Jung 
viewed creativity as depending on one's capacity to mobilize the contradictory qualities 
associated with the two drives, such as activity and passivity, consciousness and 
unconsciousness, masculinity and femininity, receptivity and productivity. From this 
perspective, Gordon suggests that one's ability to both use and surrender one's ego functions 
when necessary is fundamental to the creative process. In her book "Dying and Creating: a 
Search for Meaning," she underlines the active participation of the ego in the first 


(preparatory) and the fourth (verification) phases of creativity, and its submission to the 
forces of the unconscious during the second (incubation) and the third (inspiration) phases. 
Gordon (1978) points out that during the preparatory stage of the creative process, 
exercising one's ego control is essential for acquiring new knowledge and solving problems 
in relation to one's project. On the contrary, during the phase of incubation, one must 
surrender one's ego functions despite the feelings of pain, anxiety and despair typical at this 
stage. One must let go of the problem he or she is trying to solve and literally or 
metaphorically, "sleep on it." 

Should he seek refuge or attempt a short-cut, he will enter upon the process of 
repetition, stagnation, putrefaction or petrification. In that case what he then 
produces will turn out to be banal, stereotyped or slick. Or he will loose his roots 
altogether, inflate and, like a balloon, drift off into the air. It is during this stage of 
incubation that a seed may take root - but if it does, it happens unseen, in the depth 
of the unconscious psyche, in the dark. And then, if he is lucky, the third stage may 
'happen ' to him. (p. 131) 

Gordon (1987) describes the third phase of creativity, which she calls inspiration or 
illumination, as "a sudden flash of light, a sudden catching of one's breath, "an idea has 
'occurred'... the state of 'creative emptiness' which marked the period of incubation is 
suddenly filled by an answer, 'as if by the grace of God'" (p. 131). According to the author, 
at this stage, the person often experiences a sense of certainty which brings about feelings of 
exuberance and ecstasy. The phase of inspiration contrasts sharply with the following one, 
called verification, which involves the critical testing of the work that has been 
accomplished. At this point, the ego functions take the lead again and contribute to 


organizing and giving appropriate form to the ideas that have resulted from the previous 


The Union of Polarities and the Symbolic Emergence of the Child 

According to Gordon (1978) the unconscious plays a prominent role during the 
phases of incubation and inspiration. These two stages correspond to Ehrenzweig's (1967) 
"manic" phase, during which the ego's gradual descent into the "oceanic depths" results in a 
"creative suspension of frontiers" or "unconscious scanning." Ehrenzweig's description of 
the "descent" as the central motif of the creative process is summarized by Gordon (1978) as 

First, there is the Oedipal level. Next down is the level at which the father recedes in 
importance and distinctness; instead the mother acquires phallic-oral characteristics 
and becomes more terrifying. Then comes the level where the mother is endowed 
with the full power of both parents and so threatens not just castration but death - by 
tearing and dismemberment. But in the deepest level, the level of the undifferentiated 
matrix, the creative powers of both parents are absorbed through an identification 
with the divine child. To this deepest stage belong then the feelings of 'greatest 
stillness, austerity and serenity, (p. 137) 
The theme of the descent or initiation is equally central to the Hero's myth, which has been 
envisioned by Jung as a template for individuation. 

Like Ehrenzweig (1967), whose description of the creative process emphasizes the 
union of opposites as expressed through the Mother and Father archetypes, The Jungian 
author Barbara Stevens Sullivan (1990) writes that the union between the male and female 
polarities results in psychic death, which is experienced on a concrete level as depression. 


The potential wholeness of the individual is symbolized by the union of the most 
fundamental pair of opposites, male and female... The result of this union, this loss of 
interpersonal and intrapsychic boundaries is a state labeled 'Death', a word that 
captures the adult ego's experience of deep regression and merger... A descent to the 
underworld will be experienced at least partly as depression, (p. 53) 
Jung envisioned the child archetype as another result of the creative encounter 
between feminine and masculine; as a symbol of the Self, it stands for growth, development, 
and futurity. According to him, the child's presence as an inner figure signifies that the 
person has gathered inside the vitality necessary for further evolution. The psychoanalysts 
Marion Milner, Hannah Segal, and D. Schneider, as well as the Jungian analyst Erich 
Neumann are mentioned by Gordon (1978) amongst the authors who recognized the 
importance of the child symbol. They envision the appearance of this archetype as the result 
of the creative oscillation between activity and surrender seen as a genital bisexual activity. 
According to them, during the creative work the artist comes to identify with the figures of 
both mother and father, whose intercourse will eventually lead to the symbolic birth of the 
divine child. In relation to the analogy between the creative activity and the act of giving 
birth to a baby, Gordon (1978) also mentions Rainer Maria Rilke's description of the 
making of a poem as "a birth which is drawn urgently out of the biological and spiritual 
depth of the poet" (p. 136). In a more concrete manner, Renaldo Maduro has investigated 
the theme of the child within a group of Indian folk painters. He found that the most creative 
ones remembered their childhood memories more clearly and more easily than did the less 
creative ones. The members of the more creative group experienced themselves as children 


and envisioned their work in terms of play; many of them mentioned the birth of the divine 
child, Krishna, as one of the most important sources of their inspiration (Gordon, 1978). 
Jung's Transcendent Function: The Result of the Union of Opposites 

In his book "The psychoanalyst and the artist," Schneider (1950) envisions the 
creative process as an intercourse between the creative thrust that comes from the 
unconscious and the creative mastery added by the ego. This dialectic relationship between 
the conscious mind and the unconscious is akin to what Jung (1972) calls the Transcendent 
Function, which plays the role of mediation between polarized aspects of the psyche. Jung 
describes the Transcendent Function as an inborn process that draws together the opposite 
positions within the psyche, and which results into a whole that contains both perspectives. 
It thus creates a mid-point of personality, at mid-way between the conscious and the 

If we picture the conscious mind, with the ego at its center, as being opposed to the 
unconscious, and if we now add to our mental picture the process of assimilating the 
unconscious, we can think of this assimilation as a kind of approximation of 
conscious and unconscious, where the center of the total personality no longer 
coincides with the ego, but with a point midway between the conscious and the 
unconscious. This would be the point of new equilibrium, a new centering of the total 
personality, a virtual centre which, on account of its focal position between 
conscious and unconscious, ensures for the personality a new and more solid 
foundation. (Jung, 1972, p. 221) 
Jung explains emotional dysfunction as a problem of psychological one-sidedness consisting 
in over-valuing the conscious ego. As a result, the opposite pole, which represents the 


unconscious, is automatically triggered in the psyche in an equally strong manner. These 
dynamics create both inner tension and conflict, which can eventually be resolved trough the 
activation of the Transcendent Function. Jung has eventually incorporated his idea of 
Transcendent Function into his later concept of the archetype of unity, the Self. 
The Cycle of Death and Rebirth, and the Notion of Symbolic Healing 

Jungian analyst Donald Sandner (1991) defines symbolic death as one's loss of 
conscious control followed by surrender to an influx of symbolic unconscious material. His 
definition recalls Gordon's notion of "psychic death" and Milner's and Ehrenzweig's 
descriptions of the psychological process that accompanies the artistic activity. According to 
Sandner (1991), symbolic death is psychologically experienced by the individual as a great 
sacrifice, a way of dying to one's old self. 

Personality growth is usually thought of as a cumulative, a gradual expansion 
through time as ego consciousness gains experience and wisdom. But often it turns 
out to be only a pursuit of illusory ideals. Then there is cessation of growth, 
stultifying depression, or severe physical illness. At that point, no halfway measures 
will do; a thoroughgoing transformation is necessary for the individual's survival. 
Like the sun, the ego must prepare itself for a plunge into the darkness of the 
unconscious underworld, where it will experience rejuvenation, (p. 157) 
The above lines point to the initial elements that may prompt a person to take the road of 
individuation. They also describe "separation" as the first phase of the Hero's archetypal 
journey. According to Sandner, the Hero's myth offers a model of explanation for human 
suffering and fulfills the function of endowing it with meaning. The author demonstrates 


that symbolic healing can be explained through the cycle of death at rebirth which forms the 
symbolic structure of the Hero's myth. 

Symbolic death-rebirth means leaving the sphere of ordinary earthly life and 
entering supernatural domains to return, if successfully, full of power. There is 
dismemberment and annihilation from which the hero or heroine must be rescued by 
the joint efforts of many supernatural powers, (p. 179) 
The archetype of death and rebirth can be encountered wherever one's life needs 
transformation, writes the author. 

Sandner's (1991) five stages of symbolic healing parallel Campbell's structure of the 
Hero's myth which consists in three phases: separation, initiation, and return. Sandner's 
version describes the five stages as follows: (a) preparation or purification (washing, 
sweating, dressing in special clothes, and abstaining from certain daily activities), (b) 
presentation or evocation (the pertinent symbolic images are made and presented in vivid 
and dramatic manner, as for example icons, statues, prayer sticks, or sand paintings; once 
evoked, the supernatural powers or divine beings invest the symbols, the medicine man, and 
the patient with their numinous presence), (c) identification (the high point of the ceremony, 
in which the medicine man, the patient and sometimes the spectators, become identified or 
intimately invested with the powers that have been evoked; the medicine man is exalted into 
a powerful being, or mana personality in Jung's words), (d) transformation (the healer uses 
the extraordinary power he or she has achieved in the eyes of the patient to bring about the 
desired good results; symbolically transformed, the patient believes that the actual 
restoration to health and harmony will soon follow), and (e) release, which brings the cycle 
of symbolic healing to a close (through rituals that release the patient, the medicine man, and 


the audience from the powerful symbolic forces they have activated and help them to return 
them to a normal state of being). 

Similarly, the four principles of the Navajo healing rituals parallel Campbell's 
Hero's myth: (a) return to origins, (b) confrontation and manipulation of evil, (c) death and 
rebirth and (d) restoration of the universe. The Navahos' symbolic universe is created 
through the use of the mandala, which, in Mircea Eliade's terms, is an imago mundi (image 
of the world) that represents the cosmos in miniature and the pantheon. Creating the 
mandala has a therapeutic purpose because it is considered to be equivalent to a magical re- 
creation of the world with which the patient thus becomes "contemporary." 

One of the main functions of symbolic healing consists in creating a symbolic world 
in which the individual can feel familiar, safe, and comfortable. According to Sandner 
(1991), the healing process - whether immediate or gradual - results from the patient's 
response to the presentation of either an inner or outer symbol. As this reaction occurs, the 
patient starts feeling different, "as if two compartments of the psyche are forcefully brought 
together; there occurs a release of energy and a feeling of relief (pp. 14-15). In this sense, 
the "cure" can be compared to the modern psychological analytic work with patients, 
comments the author. Sandner' s description of the process of symbolic healing recalls 
Jung's Transcendent Function, which plays the similar role of bringing polarities together. 

Symbols can only work upon a patient who is vulnerable, open, and ready to 
experience them, writes Sandner. The patient must identify with both the sacred images and 
with the medicine man who mediates the renewal process through symbols of death and 
rebirth. At the end of the process, the medicine man places the patient in a new, 
reconstructed universe with the aid of symbols. Sandner notes that the symbols provide a 


vocabulary and an explanation for a psychological event. Following Jung - who used to 
view symbols as transformers of the libido from a lower into a higher form - the author 
suggests that the symbols convert energy into a different form, one which possesses healing 
qualities. For Sandner (1991), the process involved in the rites of passage is similar to the 
one described by the Hero's myths. 
The Hero's Myth: A Template for the Process of Individuation 

In his book, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," Campbell (1973) describes the 
pattern of all Hero's myths as composed of three stages: separation, descent (initiation) and 
return. He describes this basic schema as follows: 

The mythological hero, setting forth from his commonday hut or castle, is lured, 
carried away or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There he 
encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or 
conciliate this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark (brother-battle, 
dragon battle; offering, charm), or be slain by the opponent and descend in death 
(dismemberment, crucifixion). Beyond the threshold, then, the hero journeys through 
a world of unfamiliar, yet strangely intimate forces, some of which severely threaten 
him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers). When he arrives at the nadir of 
the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward. The 
triumph may be represented as the hero's sexual union with the goddess-mother of 
the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by the father-creator (father 
atonement), his own divinization (apotheosis), or again, if the powers have remained 
unfriendly to him, the theft of the boon he came to gain (bride-theft, fire-theft); 
intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being (illumination, 


transfiguration, freedom). The final work is that of the return. If the powers have 
blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees 
and is pursued {transformation flight, obstacle flight). At the return threshold the 
transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re-emerges from the kingdom 
of dread (return, resurrection). The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir). 
(P- 245) 

Following Jung, Noel (1991) points out that the modern process of individuation is 
similar to the ancient Hero's journey; he cites Neumann's definition of individuation as "the 
history of the self-emancipation of the ego, struggling to free itself from the power of the 
unconscious to hold its own against overwhelming odds" (p. 205). Likewise, De Bus (1991) 
maintains that the function of the Hero's myth is to give "symbolic form and utterance to its 
constant activity and structuring effect on our lives in dreams, in works of art, in integrations 
of the spiritual into our personal lives" (p. 59). In its classical form, the Hero's myth tells us 
that the turning point of the journey consists in slaying the dragon, stealing the boon, or 
finding the treasure. Its successful resolution results in the union of opposites. 

Jung has compared individuation to the Hero's journey into the underworld, in 
search of a "treasure hard to attend," which he interpreted as the Self. Ultimately, the 
process of individuation represents the individual's quest for a unique individuality, which, 
as Jung teaches us, can only be achieved through the union of the opposites. In the Jungian 
model, healing consists in the union of opposites through the transcendent function, an 
inborn quality of the psyche that unites the conscious and the unconscious, the ego and the 
non-ego, the light and the shadow through symbols in art, dreams, and active imagination. In 
his later years, Jung has integrated the transcendent function to the concept of the Self. 


The prominent Jungian analyst Marie Louise von Franz (1964) underlines some of 
the aspects that are common to both. For example, the process of individuation usually 
starts either with a wounding of the personality that provokes suffering, or with a feeling of 
meaningless and emptiness with regard to one's life. This inner experience amounts to the 
Hero's initial "call" for adventure. In order for the journey to be initiated, the individual 
must respond to it by resolutely turning inwards, even though at the beginning he or she may 
be tempted to attribute his or her suffering to some exterior cause. The initial crisis may 
manifest in a person's life through the search for 

something that is impossible to find or about which nothing is known.... The solution 
is then to turn directly toward the approaching darbiess without prejudice and 
totally naively, and to try to find out what its secret aim is and what it wants from 
you. The hidden purpose of the oncoming darkness is generally something so 
unusual, so unique and unexpected that, as a rule, one can find out what it is only by 
means of dreams and fantasies welling up from the unconscious.... Through dreams 
one becomes acquainted with aspects of one 's own personality that for various 
reasons one has preferred not to look at too closely. That is what Jung called 'the 
realization of the shadow', (p. 167) 

In myths and fairy tales, writes von Franz (1964), "it seems as if the initial encounter 
with the self casts a dark shadow ahead of time, or as if the "inner friend" comes at first like 
a trapper to catch the helplessly struggling ego in his snare" (p. 167). According to her, this 
initial stage in the process of individuation may be symbolized by the king's illness or his 
old age, a barren royal couple, a monster who steals all the wealth, children, women or 
horses of the kingdom, or by the darkness, flood, drought, or frost that afflicts the country. 


Some kind of magic or talisman that is difficult to obtain is then needed for curing the 


The Descent of the Goddess: A Model of Individuation for Women 

Through her account of an ancient Sumerian myth, Perera (1981) draws a concrete 
parallel between the heroine's journey and the process of individuation. The myth recounts 
the story of Innana, the goddess of the sky and earth, who decides to undertake a journey in 
the underworld in order to meet her "shadow sister," Ereshkigal. Innana's descent is viewed 
by Brinton Perera as a model for women's psychological initiation. By her arrival to the 
threshold of the underworld, she encounters Ereshkigal's guardian. At his mistress' orders, 
he progressively strips Innana of her royal cloth and jewelry as she passes several other 
thresholds leading to her sister's inner sanctuary. She eventually arrives naked in front of the 
dark goddess, who manifests her rage at Innana's intrusion into her realm. The dark goddess 
eventually kills her sister with her deadly gaze and hangs her body on a meat hook; Innana's 
flesh turns into a piece of greenish, rotten meat. 

Eventually, Innana gets help from the upper world through Enki, the god of water 
and wisdom, who sends into the underworld two emissaries who carry food and the "water 
of life." Unnoticed by the guardian, they penetrate in the dark goddess' sanctuary and find 
her grieving the loss of her husband. The two emissaries mourn with her and show her their 
empathy. Relieved of her suffering by their lamentations, the goddess expresses her 
gratitude by rendering Innanna's rotten corpse, which they revivify with the water of life. 
Inanna is allowed to return to the upper world with the condition of finding a substitute to 
replace her in Ereshkigal's realm, role that is eventually shared by her first husband and his 
sister, each of them having to stay for half a year into the underworld. 


Perera's (1981) analysis of various elements of Inanna's initiation recalls Campbell's 
basic pattern of the Hero's myth. The poem counts that Inanna descends voluntarily in the 
greatest depth of the underworld, with the pretext of participating in the funerals of 
Ereshkigal's husband. In reality, writes the author, the purpose of her journey is the renewal 
of life on earth. Her clothes and adornments, of which she is stripped by the guardian 
symbolize her defenses and her identification with the persona. The extraverted and active 
goddess is humiliated, judged, and then killed, her body being transformed into a piece of 
inert meat. 

According to Perera (1981), this myth shows how the dark forces repressed in the 
unconscious are reactivated during the journey. Ereshkigal's rage may represent the 
unconscious' typical manifestation when it feels invaded by unwanted elements; its obscure 
forces break loose and attempt to surrender the ego. The author points out that Ereshkigal's 
energy symbolizes not only destruction, but also transformation; her energy, which appears 
as stagnant and immobile, stands for the purifying bath that leads to healing. 

Inanna is eventually rescued through Enki's magical help; his wisdom is evident in 
his capacity for empathy and improvisation, and his waters are able to moist Ereshkigal's 
dark desert, writes Perera (1981). He is guided by his sensibility in finding a creative 
solution to Inanna's problem. The author interprets the two humble emissaries who 
empathize with Ereshkigal as the acceptance of suffering. It is only after Ereshkigal is 
relieved of her suffering that the dark goddess releases Inanna, who can now be released of 
her own. According to Perera (1981), her revival with food and the "water of life" 
symbolizes the regeneration of the soul that allows her to return in the upper world. 


In Perera's (1981) view, this myth teaches us about the circular movement 
(circulation) which allows life to develop. Ereshkigal and Inanna are envisioned as the two 
sides of the Great Goddess, which are united through Inanna' s initiation into the mysteries 
of the dark goddess. According to the author, the alternation between the two modes of 
being governs the functioning of the feminine Self. As demonstrated by this ancient myth, 
although the descent is dangerous, the treasure to be found in the depth of the unconscious is 
worth the journey, for it brings about a radical transformation of the personality. Jung (1993) 
teaches us that there is no transformation without danger and sacrifice. He describes the 
ego's descent into the unconscious as the "perilous adventure of the night sea journey 
...whose end and aim is the restoration of life, resurrection and the triumph over death" (p. 
333). Jung (1993) explains the individual's resistance in getting in contact with the 
unconscious as a fear of death, the fear of "the journey to Hades," which he views as 

equivalent to that 'peril of the soul' which is primitive man's greatest dread... the 
deliberate and indeed wanton provocation of this state is a sacrilege or breach of 
taboo attended by the severest punishments. . . The psychological danger that arises 
here is the disintegration of personality into its functional components, i.e., the 
separate functions of consciousness, the complexes, hereditary units, etc., the 
equivalent of the alchemical mortification, (p. 333) 
Concretely speaking, the lowering of the level of consciousness that accompanies its descent 
is experienced by the ego as self extinction, explains Jung (1993). 


The Creative Process: A Heroine 's Journey 

The structure of the Hero's myth is viewed by J'nan Morse Sellery (1989) as a 
concrete demonstration of "how the poet or the artist works through his or her own image- 
making experiences to find the center" (p. 95). Jung (1972) noticed that a series of images 

whether in drawn or written form begins as a rule with the symbol of the... journey to 
Hades, the descent into the unconscious, and the leave taking from the upper world. 
What happens afterwards, though it may still be expressed in the forms and figures 
of the day-world, gives intimations of a hidden meaning and is therefore symbolic in 
character. [The descent into the unconscious] is not an aimless and purely 
destructive fall into the abyss, but a meaningful. . .descent into the cave of initiation 
and secret knowledge, (p. 138) 
From a Jungian perspective (Jung, 1993), whether the creative process is artistic, 
mythological, or therapeutic, the descent always fulfills the same function, that is, "to show 
that only in the region of danger (watery abyss, cavern, forest, island, castle, etc.) can one 
find the 'treasure hard to attain' (jewel, virgin, life potion, victory over death)" (p.335). The 
"treasure" to which Jung refers is a new relationship between the ego and the Self, and the 
integration at a higher level of opposite aspects of one's personality into a third, more whole 
entity, often expressed through such symbols as the mandala and the child. 

In a similar sense, Erich Neumann (1974) describes the artist's journey towards 
individuation as the achievement of consciousness through the union of the Mother and 
Father archetypes within the psyche. 

In the course of the patriarchal development of consciousness, the bond with the 
Great Mother is broken, and after the dragon fight the hero is reborn into a relation 


with the spirit father; he fulfills his mythological task as one twice born. Dragon 
fight and 'slaying of the parents' mean the surpassing of the mother as the symbol of 
an unconscious that holds the son fast in the collective world of drives; and they 
signify also the surpassing of the father, symbol of the collective values and 
traditions of his time. Only after this victory does the hero achieve his own new 
world, the world of his individual mission, in which... the mother and father 
archetype assume a new aspect. They are no longer hostile, confining powers, but 
companions, bestowing their blessings on the life and work of the victorious hero- 
son, (p. 20) 
Newman (1974) observes that the ego's descent into the unconscious followed by its return 
parallels the cyclical process of death and rebirth, with its endless repetitions. 

Like the act of generation, the essential, creative act in which the spring pours forth 
contains a sacrifice and an approach as well as a coincidence of life and death. This 
midpoint between oppositions, in which the tension is gathered into a third and 
higher term, is such a 'turning point. ' The never-resting flow of the spring is eternal 
transformation, and as birth and death it is also enduring life... Precisely the 
involuntary character of the flowing reveals the grace of transformation, (p. 200) 
The "turning point" of which speaks the author, that is, the midpoint between opposites is 
the Transcendental Function through which the transformation is achieved. 

According to Jung, Ehrenzweig (1967), Milner (1987), Gordon (1978), and Newman 
(1974), the creative process displays a similarity with the Hero's archetypal journey. The 
Hero's myth, which, according to Sandner (1991) is the highest expression of the archetype 
of death and rebirth, is envisioned by these authors as a model for the creative process. Its 


structure involves (a) the separation of the conscious mind from the known and familiar 
world in which it usually evolves, and (b) the voluntary descent of the ego into the depth of 
the unconscious where it would go through some sort of initiation that would eventually 
transform him, if all goes well. From the Hero's myth, we learn that the eventual 
regeneration (or rebirth) of both the artist's psyche and of his work is conditional to his prior 
and faithful acceptance of "death." The last stage of the journey is (3), the Hero's return to 
the upper world with the new insights that represent the boon. This phase is completed only 
when the hero-artist has found a way of rendering to the community the fruit of his or her 
apprenticeship in the underworld. The ultimate purpose of the artistic venture viewed as a 
Hero's journey is the expansion of both the artist's personality and of his creative work 
through the union of the ego with the Self. This is also the aim of the process of 
individuation, which makes possible the union of opposites. 
The Immigrant Woman and the Artist Viewed as "Heroine" 

Art critic Lucy Lippard (1992) wrote that "the expatriate is in some sense the 
postmodern hero.... The two have in common alienation, but not necessarily fatalism. The 
expatriate- and the expatriate artist in particular - is master of bricolage, of the collage of 
life, keeper in the ongoing present of an album bearing the fragile leaves of the past" (p. 
122). Some authors cited in this review of literature have described the immigrant as a 
postmodern hero, a figure who is representative of a great majority of people living their 
lives in a globalized world (e.g. Bauman, 1997; Chambers, 1994). A few others have 
paralleled the artist to the ancient hero (e.g. Ehrenzweig, 1967; Gordon, 1978; Milner, 1987; 
Newman, 1974). 


Both the artist and the immigrant search for some "treasure hard to attain," and are 
called to "die" to their old patterns, confronting and eventually coming to terms with various 
dangers inherent to the unknown world into which they are journeying. The artist works 
through the frustrations related to the creation of an art object, while the immigrant works 
through the cultural, linguistic, and financial difficulties in his or her attempt to create a new 
and more adapted identity. In the two parallel journeys the stake is represented by the 
necessity to unify split-off parts of one's Self. The artist's work may reflect the deep 
coherence created through the union of opposites that occurred during his or her ego's 
immersion into the unconscious, whilst the immigrant's similar venture is aimed towards 
integrating of two (often) opposite universes. Like Inanna and Persephone - two upper 
world goddesses who, after a journey in the underworld, came to integrate light and 
darkness and mediate between the two worlds - the immigrant must be able to tolerate the 
tension between the two part-cultures to which he or she belongs, until they transform into a 
third, "in-between" culture. 

"Those on the move (go) sometimes back and forth to homes... on both sides... [and] 
describe themselves as half of one identity, half of another, and half of an additional 
something else," writes the linguist Doris Sommer (2004, p. 48). According to her, the 
immigrant is forced by circumstances to acquire "a tragic bilingual sense of life [which] 
tolerates loss... a bittersweet maturity... developed through the acceptance of pain as a 
natural ingredient of one's psychic life" (p. 46). According to the author, this attitude is 
developed through the immigrant's daily living and amounts to creativity. In this context, 
the word "bittersweet" appears as a creative union of opposites into a third entity, as a. juste 
milieu that accounts for the relativity of all things. Sommer (2004) points out that the 


immigrant's capacity to integrate opposites together, which eventually results in personal 
growth, depends on one's acceptance of pain and loss, and is a condition for maturity. 
Sommer's thoughts recall Ehrenzweig's (1967) description of the "depressive" phase of 
creativity, which involves the artist's sober acceptance of the reality that his or her work will 
never be perfect. According to Ehrenzweig, it is the artist's tolerance of the loss of his ideal 
inspiration that eventually leads to the gradual integration of the work through several cycles 
of the ego's immersion into the unconscious. 



An Arts Based Phenomenological Approach 

This arts-based phenomenological study represents the concrete outcome of the 
literature review. Its purpose is to deepen understanding of the experience of exile and self- 
identity and of the contribution of art therapy in the work with immigrant women. As most 
of the data consist in images, the choice of an arts based approach to research appears to me 
as the most natural. Mc Niff (1998) views arts based research as "a method of inquiry which 
uses the elements of the creative arts therapy experience, including the making of art by the 
researcher, as ways of understanding the significance of what we do in our practice" (p. 13). 
In her book "Artistic Inquiry in Dance/Movement Therapy: Creative Alternatives for 
Research," Hervey (2000) defines the characteristics of the arts based approach to research 
as follows: "(1) uses artistic methods of gathering, analyzing, and/or presenting data, (2) 
engages in and acknowledges a creative process, and (3) is motivated and determined by the 
aesthetic values of the researcher" (p.7). My research project corresponds to all points of the 
above definition. It has been partly motivated by my interest in the contributions of the 
aesthetic component of art to healing. Much of the data was generated through the 
participants' involvement in the art therapy process, and their artistic products. 

Like Hervey, Jones (2002) envisions artistic productions as legitimate data that can 
be analyzed. He suggests that because of its aesthetic qualities, art has the capacity to reveal 
aspects that are inexpressible through regular language and states that, for this reason, the 
researcher's intellectual engagement should be primarily grounded in the artistic level. Arts- 


based research offers many opportunities for combining qualitative research and art, writes 
Jenoure (2002); he points out that both disciplines are similar because they are rooted in 
imagination. He suggests that acknowledging this close relationship contributes to 
promoting a more holistic approach. For similar reasons, Bagley and Cancienne (2002) 
advocate adopting new methods of research that include an artistic perspective. Bagley and 
Cancienne deplore the current tendency in social sciences to dismiss any work that cannot 
be assessed through traditional academic approaches. 

According to Hervey (2000), until now the initiative in using art for research 
purposes has been more frequent in education than the creative arts therapies, a situation 
which is surprising, considering that imagination and art have played an important role in 
other related fields since the seventies. The author states that in the fields of sociology and 
anthropology, several authors have sought for ways of incorporating aesthetic elements into 
their research (e.g. Brown, 1977; Clifford & Marcus, 1986; Geertz 1983; Goldwater, 1973; 
Nisbet, 1976; Sandelowski, 1994). Other authors, such as Mitroff and Kilmann (1978) 
approached arts-based research within the Jungian tradition, and crossovers between 
literature and research have demonstrated a similar tendency. With reference to the field of 
art therapy in particular, McNiff (1987, p. 291) recommends the application of the current 
psychological theories to the arts with the purpose of creating "original theory, indigenous to 
art." He promotes an approach to research that has "the smell of the studio, stays close to the 
practice of art and the statements of artists, respect images, and allow them to present 
themselves in ways native to their being" (p. 291). Knill, Barba, and Fuchs (1995) have also 
made an important contribution in expanding the vision of an approach to qualitative 
research that is rooted in the creative process. 


Although the above views correspond partly to the design of my own research, the 
questions that are at the basis of my study are of a phenomenological nature: What is the 
nature of the experience of being an immigrant, as perceived by participants in the research 
project? What are the meanings they ascribe to this experience? What is their perception of 
their identity? Betensky (1995) introduces phenomenology as a discipline "founded on the 
philosophical anthropology of man as being in the world" which "asserts the centrality of 
man's subjective experience, its intentional character, and its accessibility to consciousness" 
(p. 13). She cites Husserl's description of phenomena as including "visible, touchable, and 
audible things in the world around us, as well as thoughts and feelings, dreams, memories, 
fantasies, and all that stems from the human mind or spirit and belongs in the realm of 
mental experience" (p. 4). 

I have integrated into my methodology some of the main characteristics of the 
phenomenological approach, such as those described by Creswell (1998). According to him, 
the phenomenological tradition is concerned with the exploration of several individuals' 
perception about a lived experience and the meaning they ascribe to it. In the psychological 
approach to phenomenology, particular attention is given to the individual experience. The 
phenomenologist envisions life as a mystery rather than as a problem to be solved; for him 
or her, human experience makes sense to those who live it and can be consciously expressed 
by them prior to any interpretation or theorizing (Creswell, 1998). For Moustakas (1994), 
the purpose of the phenomenological approach is "to determine what an experience means 
for the persons who have had the experience and are able to provide a comprehensive 
description of it. From the individual descriptions, general or universal meanings are 
derived, in other words, the essences of structures of the experience" (p. 13). 


In the context of my own study, the problem of the phenomenological tradition such 
as described by Creswell and Moustakas, is that it relies mostly on words, while my primary 
data are embedded in concrete images. Betensky's (1995) description of a 
phenomenological-oriented approach to art therapy fills this gap as she explains: 

Since phenomenology is an open-ended orientation with focus on a variety of 
phenomena-based themes, therapeutic art expression and art therapy qualify as 
legitimate themes for a phenomenological theory and method. The emphasis on 
visually expressive self-projections with art-materials of people in need to find 
themselves in the world, makes art therapy uniquely suited to both the aspects of the 
philosophy and the method. 

Betensky (1995) maintains that such an approach has the capacity to reveal the 
hidden (ontological) dimension of Being, "as phenomena accessible to consciousness and to 
conscious treatment" thus coming "closest to the fulfillment of the task that Heidegger 
assigned to phenomenology" (p. 13). According to her, art therapy achieves this aim through 
one's "free expressive process of self projections with art materials" and/or by "extending 
consciousness through the act of intuiting... to be followed by a spontaneous drawing of 
shapes in color" (p. 12). 

Data Collection 

The method of phenomenological data collection is typically based on extensive 
interviews during which the researcher attempts to bracket her own views about the 
experience. Before starting the interview, he or she explains her own experience of the 
phenomenon being explored, as well as her reason for wanting to undertake the research. 
Although the main data thus obtained are of verbal nature, they can be amplified through 


"researcher self-reflection and previously developed descriptions from artistic works," 
writes Creswell (1998, p. 54). 

Before the beginning of each workshop, I conducted one to three hour interviews, 
during which the participants recounted their life story from the perspective of their 
migratory process. According to the author, phenomenological research emphasizes qualities 
such as empathy, openness, and being present for others. While conducting interviews, it 
appeared important to me to keep in mind Creswell's, as well as Reinharz's, (1992) 
suggestions. From a feminist perspective, the latter envisions the researcher's relationships 
with the participants as collaborative and non-exploitative; she recommends that interviews 
be conducted in an interactive, dialogic manner, which fosters the potential for reciprocally 
educative encounters. 

In my arts based phenomenological research, the visual and verbal data complement 
one another to form an indivisible whole. The verbatim transcript resulting from the 
interviews represents only part of the data. Photographs of the artwork produced by the 
participants during three art therapy workshops constitute the other part of the data. Other 
information was obtained through the participants' comments in reference to the images 
they produced, and through my observations, which I noted as the art therapeutic process 
unfolded. My notes reflect my own learning and include my reactions to the images, to their 
aesthetic and symbolic aspects, and to the participants' own comments. Two years after the 
end of the workshops, I invited the six women selected for the purposive sample to 
participate in a second interview (Interview 2). The verbal data from this process came to 
validate and complete the data collection process. 


In this research, the data are submitted and analyzed individually in the form of six 
case studies. Nonetheless, as they have been generated through a group approach, the 
interactions between participants played an important role in each woman's individual 
processes. Although they are not specifically emphasized within the case studies, the group 
dynamics are considered important, as I attempted to create an interactive community that 
would enrich each woman's artistic and emotional process through the presence of the 
others, and give each woman the opportunity to offer her unique contribution to other 
participants. In doing so, I took into account Reinharz's (1992) feminist approach, which 
advocates for projects that are transformative for the participants. 


Interview 1 

The purpose of Interview 1 , which I conducted before the beginning of each 
workshop, was to offer participants the opportunity to recount their migratory processes and 
contextualize them into the framework of their larger lives. These interviews enabled me to 
meet each woman before the beginning of the workshops, thus establishing rapport and 
learning about her particular background. The interviews also represented a way of initiating 
the therapeutic work that was to be continued during the workshops on a verbal level. 

The open-ended questions formulated for Interview 1 were a logical outcome of my 
literature review and were designed to evoke responses to the main concepts and questions 
raised through my readings and my research project. I envisioned Questionnaire 1 as a 
flexible guide for systematic data collection that would be adapted to each woman's style of 
communication and narrative content. My purpose was to collect information about the 
women's migratory experiences and their perception of their identities in these contexts. 


Questionnaire 1. 

1 . Describe the context of your departure from your home country, and its 
emotional implications for you; include in your description the significant events 
of your life, your family background, and your social and professional situation 
in your country of origin. 

2. What happened when you arrived to Canada? 

3. What are the significant events that have occurred since you have been 

living in Canada? 

4. How do you think these events affected your perception of who you are? 

5. How would you describe your self-identity today? 

6. How do you feel in your host country today? 

7. How do you imagine your future? 

8. What are the personal and/or professional consequences of your experience 

of immigration? 
Interview 2 

Two years after the workshops concluded, I conducted another extensive interview 
with the six women selected for the purposive sample (interview 2). I chose the six 
participants in accordance to my own interests, the purpose of the phenomenological 
approach being to test the researcher's own understanding of the phenomenon. Three of the 
women in the purposive sample belong to Group 1 , and the other three to Group 2. Their 
ages vary between early 30 and early 50, and all of them have lived in Canada for more than 
fifteen years. They each have a professional background in either social work or art. 


Interview 2, which lasted between one and two hours, represented a way of 
collecting new data and validating what I had written about the participants at that point. In 
addition to verifying the accuracy of the information presented in each woman's case study, 
it also offered each woman in the purposive sample the opportunity to reflect on her creative 
and therapeutic processes; a more detailed description of Interview 2 will be developed in 
the section concerned with the data analysis. 

In relation to interviews in general, Reinharz (1992) recommends establishing 
collaborative relationships with participants and endowing the project with a transformative 
purpose. I believe that both conditions were fulfilled during both Interviews 1 and 2. For 
example, most women shared that they have never had the opportunity to tell the story of 
their lives, and that doing so allowed them to identify with their self-narratives. Most 
participants reported that they experienced the two interviews as "therapeutic." 

The Workshops 
Duration of Workshops and Composition of Groups 

I conducted three workshops (Workshops 1, 2, and 3) over a period of 9 months, 
between mid-September 2003 and the end of May 2004. Each workshop lasted 8 weeks. In 
order to promote reciprocity, I offered the three workshops free of charge in exchange for 
permission to use the material for my dissertation. Seven women participated in the first 
group, eight in the second, and a fluctuating number (between eight and thirteen) in the 
third. Inspired by the phenomenological approach, my criterion of selection has been their 
common lived experience of the migratory process. The notion of being an immigrant was 
defined by the participants' perception of themselves as immigrants, no matter how long 
they lived in Canada. The criterions of age, country of origins, length of time lived in the 


host country, or profession have not been taken into account, for in my view, the 
participants' diversity is an enriching element in terms of group dynamics. 

The supplementary common characteristic of all participants in Workshops 1 and 2 
resided in that they were all professional women with a great capacity to articulate their 
experiences verbally. The participants were recruited through a flyer that was sent through 
the Quebec's Social Workers' Board, other organizations working with immigrant women, 
and a few public libraries situated in multiethnic areas. In Group 1, six out of the seven 
participants were social workers, and one was working in a bank. In Group 2, six out of the 
eight participants were involved with the arts, another worked as a massage- therapist, and 
the last one was as a high school teacher. 

Workshop 3 was offered within the framework of a social work agency (C.L.S.C 
Park Extension), which provided social work services in a neighborhood almost exclusively 
inhabited by immigrant families. The participants were referred by the agency's social 
workers and medical staff and were selected based on the criterion of living in the same 
neighborhood. They had a diversity of educational backgrounds and ethnic origins; most of 
them had come from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Bangladesh, and Haiti, as well as 
Latin American and African countries. For various reasons (mothers of large families, 
illiteracy or little education, religious considerations, or oppressive couple relationships) the 
women living in this neighborhood appeared to have little opportunity to enter the workforce 
and adapt to their host culture. The number of participants in the art therapy workshop 
fluctuated over the weeks from 8 to 13, which was an unusually large number according to 
the other social workers. Usually, the workshops organized by the agency started with a 
large number of people, than diminished dramatically as time passes. 


The rationale behind the choice of running three different workshops was to obtain a 
greater diversity of participants and therefore a variety of data. This approach gave me 
access to a broader perspective of the possible applications of art therapy to problems related 
to immigration and identity. For the purpose of this study, I decided to concentrate on the 
Groups 1 and 2; the reports presented to the social work agency (CLSC Park Extension) at 
the end of the Workshop 3 can be found in Appendix B, and Appendix C (written in 

My decision to focus on the first two groups was due to their greater homogeneity 
despite inherent differences. In addition, the women participating in these two groups were 
fluent in French, while the verbal communication was more complex and problematic in 
Group Three. Some of the women spoke only Hindi, Tamil, or Bengali, while others were 
fluent in English or French. Although the participants translated for one other, the process 
rarely allowed for direct communication. However, despite the difficulty inherent to a 
culturally heterogeneous group, the process of art making and the images generated served 
as direct means of communication and created a sense of communion. 

Basic Questions that Facilitated the Planning of the Workshops 

The art therapeutic process that took place during the workshops was intended to 
answer the following questions: 

(a) How do participants define their perception of their homelands? (b) How do they 
perceive themselves in relation to their homelands? (c) What are the main psychological 
features characteristic of the passage from "there" to "here"? (d) Does any restructuring 
process of self-identity appear to take place during the workshops? If so, how does it 
manifest in women's images? (e) How do the participants seem to perceive their host- 


culture? (f) Do they report experiencing a sense of belonging? If so, how do they define it? 

(g) How do they envision their future? (h) How, and to what extent, do women reconcile 

two or more cultures into a new, hybrid culture? (i) To what extent do participants seem to 

acquire a new perception of their identities through the creative process? (j) What is the 

impact of the art therapeutic process on the women's perceptions of their experiences of 


General Outline of the Workshops 1, and 2 

I used a flexible structure that allowed me to adjust to the ongoing group process. 
This continual revision of the basic structure during the eight weeks as the ongoing process 
evolved is consistent with the cyclical process of collecting and analyzing 
phenomenological data. This flexibility allowed me to identify the most important aspects 
of each session and to ensure continuity as I planned the next meeting. The free flow of the 
process, and the women's intense involvement, were both used to gauge the appropriate 
modifications of the basic structure. 
First session. 

The first session was designed as a general introduction to the content of the 
workshop, and viewed as an opportunity for the participants to get acquainted with one 

(a) The group leader presents the purpose of the study, the general structure of the 
sessions, and her professional background. Participants (b) introduce themselves by 
presenting to the group an important personal object, as well as significant aspects of their 
migratory trajectory, (c) take part in warm-up rhythmical movements, followed by painting 
spontaneously on a large paper pinned to the wall; different types of music are used as 


support to these exercises (d) share about their painting, and the possible meanings and 
symbolisms of their final images, (e) look at books featuring the work of various 
contemporary artists, and (f) share their perceptions related to their first session. 

Second session. 

(a) Initiating an exchange about various aspects of the migratory process, with the 
purpose of stimulating group dynamics (b) starting the creative process by a brief 
demonstration of the use of various art media, (c) relaxation and visualization led by the 
group leader on the topic "Recollections of my Homeland," (d) art-making with a medium 
chosen by each participant, (e) group-sharing about the content and possible meanings of the 
images produced by the participants during the session, and (f) sharing with the group a few 
comments about one's overall experience during the second session. 

Third session. 

For the third meeting, participants were asked to bring flat personal objects to 
include in their collage. 

(a) Sharing thoughts, impressions and emotions about the previous session, with the 
purpose of facilitating continuity and enhancing group dynamics, (b) relaxation and 
visualization led by the group leader on the topic: "Significant aspects of my transition 
between my homeland and my host country," (c) art-making; using the approach of collage, 
(d) group-sharing about the content and possible meanings of the collages produced by the 
participants during the session, and (e) sharing with the group a few comments about one's 
overall experience during the third session. 


Fourth session. 

For the fourth meeting, participants were encouraged to bring some more personal 
material, such as photocopies of significant photographs, letters, diary entries, letters, cards, 
and fabrics to include in the collages. 

(a) Group-sharing of personal photographs, with the purpose of continuing to 
develop and enrich with concrete memories the participants' narratives, (b) brief 
demonstration of how to incorporate personal material into the collage, and integrate collage 
and tempera paint, (c) group-sharing about the experience of collage-making, and about 
content and possible meanings of the work-in-progress, (d) sharing with the group a few 
comments about one's overall experience during the fourth session. 

Fifth session. 

(a) Sharing with the group thoughts and reflections about the previous session, with 
the purpose of insuring continuity, (b) sharing a piece of music, prose, or a poem that evokes 
a special memory for the participant, with the purpose of continuing to develop and enrich 
one's narrative, and stimulate creativity, (c) continuing the work on the collage, (d) group- 
sharing about the content and possible meanings of the collages produced by the participants 
during the two sessions, (e) sharing with the group a few comments about one's overall 
experience during the fifth session. 

Sixth session. 

(a) Sharing with the group one's thoughts and reflections about the previous sessions 
and related dreams, with the purpose of insuring continuity and enhancing the creative 
process, (b) revision of the participants' creative journey during the workshop thus far, 
through relaxation and visualization, with the purpose of stimulating their reflections about 


their identities, lives and further development, (c) art-making with the medium of their 
choice, (d) group-sharing about their creative journey thus far and the content and possible 
meanings of the images they produced during the current session, (e) sharing with the group 
a few comments about one's overall experience during the sixth session. 

Seventh session. 

The main goal of the seventh session was to revise the participants' artwork, with the 
purpose of allowing each woman to conclude her process. Each participant was asked to 
bring a recording of a significant musical piece to be used in the first phase of the revision 
as a background for the group's silent contemplation of her images. In a second phase, each 
participant shared with the group her thoughts, reflections, and emotions related to her 
journey in an effort to derive the larger themes underlying both her creative and migratory 
processes and to envision them as a whole. In a third phase, the group leader and the other 
group members offered their feed-back in relation to the participant's artwork. The revision 
was followed by another period of art-making, with the goal of synthesizing each woman's 
creative process. 

(a) Revision of each participant's work, (b) art-making: producing a synthesis-image 
with the medium of each participant's choice, (c) group-sharing about the content, possible 
meanings, and the ways in which the last image relates to the participant's journey, (d) 
Closure: sharing with the group a few comments as a means of conclusion about one's 
creative journey. 

Eighth session. 

The eighth session was different for Workshops 1 and 2. The participants in both 
workshops were offered the possibility to either paint a collective mural, or bind their 


artwork into artist books during the eighth session. While participants in Workshop 1 
preferred to work on their own artist books, participants in Workshop 2 preferred to end 
their process with a mural that would mirror their bond and solidarity. After having finished 
their work on their large collective painting, they decided to divide it into equal pieces that 
each of them could keep as a recollection of their group experience. 

Workshop 1 : (a) Binding the series of images produced during the workshop into an 
artist's book; using their last, synthesis-image, as a cover for their book (b) presenting one's 
book to the group, (c) sharing with the group a few comments as a means of conclusion. 

Workshop 2: (a) Painting a large, collective mural (b) dividing the mural into eight, 
equal pieces (c) sharing with the group a few comments as a means of conclusion. 
Workshop 3: Basic Aspects 

Because of its composition, Group 3 required adjustments in the design of the 
workshop. As will be specified in the next paragraph, many participants spoke only their 
native tongue and needed to be helped with translation by other women in the group. The 
diversity of language and cultures represented by the group required an important 
adjustment, that is, the structure needed to be brought to its simplest form. I eliminated the 
movement, relaxation, and visualization techniques because I felt that it would raise 
participants' resistance. 

The structure used had three main aspects: proposing the theme, working on images, 
and verbal sharing related to these images. The sharing included translation into various 
languages by the participants. For institutional reasons, the meetings lasted two hours 
instead of three. Unlike Workshops 1 and 2, Workshop 3 comprised an Easter art therapy 
gathering, which included the women's children, as well as a final celebration which 


involved an art exhibition and a music show as well as sharing food. The reason for these 
modifications was that the participants in Workshop 3 were living in the same community 
and the workshop was organized in a community agency. A few other social workers from 
the agency helped with organizing the two events (see Appendixes B and C). 
Group Dynamics 

The purposive sample for this research comprises only six women out of fifteen, 
(three from the first group, and three from the second). Although their creative journeys will 
be analyzed on an individual basis, the group dynamics contributed significantly to each 
participant's personal process. The workshops created a sense of community and belonging, 
and the feedback of other participants with regard to one's images and stories reinforced 
their trust in the process. Given their composition (professional women speaking French 
very well), Groups 1 and 2 were greatly interactive; the women shared extensively about 
their lives, images, and emotions. 

Often, one woman's vision contributed to enriching another's. For instance, the 
notion of the past viewed as "a lost paradise" mentioned by one of the participants evoked 
memories of similar perceptions in other women in the group. When one woman spoke of 
"home" and houses, others often related to this fundamental concept. The presence of a 
Cuban participant in Group 2 triggered a more reserved woman's desire to enhance her own 
exuberance, a less developed facet of her personality. Other examples of how group 
dynamics influenced the women's own creative processes relate to techniques, visual 
expression, and psychological and artistic processes. For instance, during Workshop 2, a few 
women were inspired by a member's style of painting and wanted to experiment with it in 


their own images. In order to reinforce their sense of belonging and cooperation, this group 
chose to give closure to their workshop by creating a collective mural. 

In Group 3, most women participated steadily throughout the workshop despite their 
linguistic barriers (some women were only speaking their mother tongue, others were 
speaking some French or English). This degree of participation surprised the social workers 
of the agency, who were used to women dropping out progressively after the first group 
sessions. The women enjoyed showing their artwork to one another and making brief 
comments about their pieces. They seemed to rediscover their capacity for playing, and the 
pleasures of using colors to represent their worlds. Despite the participants' cultural 
differences, the Workshop seemed to enhance their communication skills and self-esteem 
(see Appendix C). 
Workshops 1 and 2: Basic Approach 

Certain aspects of the workshops designed for this study were inspired by an 
approach that I developed during the past 10 years, resulting from a merger of elements with 
which I experimented in both my art therapy and creativity workshops. The participants' 
creative processes appeared to be enhanced by certain variables that are part of this 
approach, and which I will described below. 

The use of movement and music. 

The movement was used to introduce the first session of Workshops 1 and 2, as a 
warm-up exercise, and also to help participants to overcome their fears of the blank page. 
During the process, movement has also been occasionally present as some women shared 
their national dance with the group and suggested that the other participants move with 


them. The music accompanied the whole process, creating a private space for each woman, 
and helping them to focus on their work. 

The use of relaxation and visualization techniques. 

The relaxation and visualization techniques appeared to deepen the participants' 
senses and had the capacity to trigger memories, feelings, and emotions, during the process 
of art making. In addition, these modalities permitted me to create smooth transitions 
between the weekly sessions, synthesize previous topics, and suggest new directions. 

Allowing a significant length of time for art-making. 

One of my constant preoccupations has been to allow participants to utilize as much 
time as they needed for completing their images, even though it sometimes constrained me 
to change my initial plans. Allowing a significant length of time for the art-making became 
particularly important as participants became absorbed with their collages for two or more 

Demonstrating briefly the techniques. 

A concrete demonstration of how to employ the various media contributed to put 
participants at ease; being able to use art materials without having to struggle too long with 
their resistance facilitated the participant's exploration of new modes of self-expression, 
and diminished their anxiety. 

Using symbolic or personal objects as means of enhancing the creative process. 

Sharing with the group reflections related to a significant personal object, personal 
photograph, piece of music, dance, poem, or ritual, stimulated both the participants' 
storytelling and their image-making. At the beginning of each session, one of the group 
members was selected to take an extended period of time to share a fragment of her story 


through one of the means described above. The last session of each workshop consisted of a 
revision of each woman's images viewed as a whole. Each participant brought a recording 
of a significant musical piece to accompany her presentation, the musical background 
rendering these moments particularly moving. 

A Description of the Process that Lead to Incorporating the above Elements into my Current 

Art Therapeutic Approach 

Over the years, my work as an art therapist has crystallized around clinical work with 
both individuals and groups. With time, I became interested in understanding the specificity 
of the clinical and artistic components of the art therapeutic process as entities in their own 
right. So I started searching for means of exploring each of them separately. Thus I came to 
develop and run two parallel types of workshops: art therapeutic workshops, which were 
designed in accordance to a more traditional clinical model, and creativity workshops, which 
allowed me to experiment with the production of images according to a studio model. By 
experimenting with the studio model, I became increasingly aware of the healing dimension 
of the artistic experience as such. Later in my practice, I was able to enrich the design of my 
art therapy workshops with the findings of the creativity workshops. 

The four-day-creativity-workshop entitled "Celebrating the Inner Artist" that I used 
to offer over the years, focused participants on the artistic process. In accordance to the 
artists' usual approach in the art studio, participants were offered the opportunity to 
experiment with line, form, color, and composition for their own sake. Although we 
explored various media, the main focus was on creating large format paintings- grappling 
with their challenges and finding personal solutions to the problems that occurred along the 


In contrast to the sharing that took place during the art therapy workshops, where the 
focus was on meaning, symbols, and psychological processes, participants in the creativity 
workshops discussed their creative processes, the aesthetic outcomes of their works, and 
their creative blocks. The aspects that contributed to the latter process were the following: 
(a) an extended time of exposure to the artistic work, longer than in the "classical" art 
therapy workshops, (b) showing reproductions of the artwork of various contemporary 
artists, (c) a brief demonstration of techniques, and (d) the complementary use of other 
modalities such as music, movement, and relaxation. 

Prolonging the time for art-making. 

Prolonged engagement in making art was stimulated by the nature of the painting 
process, which requires the application of successive layers of the medium. The large scale 
of the paper also contributed to prolonging the time required for completion. Although the 
main purpose of the workshop was to explore the creative process itself, participants became 
aware that the emotions accompanying each phase of the work paralleled the ones that were 
often manifesting in their real life. 

The length of time allowed for the creative process seemed to enhance the 
complexity and depth of the psychological processes that accompanied the creative work. I 
noticed that alternations of depressive and joyful feelings seemed to occur with no apparent 
reason during the most intensive periods of work. According to the participants' self-reports, 
no thoughts related to memories or current life events were present at these times. It 
appeared to me that containing these feelings and working through them often facilitated the 
resolution of participants' emotional states, as well as the composition itself. According to 
the participants, the successful resolution of aesthetic problems during the prolonged artistic 


process often helped them to find new and creative ways to deal with daily events in then- 
outer world. 

On a concrete level, the participants had to resolve the technical and aesthetic 
problems that typically arise during the creative process. In order to do so, they were 
encouraged to take risks by continuing to paint until they reached a higher level of 
satisfaction with their final product. That is, instead of merely contenting themselves with a 
more-or-less satisfactory image, and avoiding completing their work for fear of ruining it, 
they were guided (by the group leader) into confronting their anxieties, and continuing to 
paint until the artwork acquired a greater complexity and depth. For the participants, this 
phase proved to be the most stressful, since by attempting to improve their image, the 
participants also risked destroying it. 

These observations helped me to gain a better understanding of my own experience 
as a visual artist. I realized that by allowing the creative process to unfold over longer 
periods of time, one could enter an altered state of consciousness that gave access to deeper 
layers of the unconscious. The creative process - as experienced by both the participants and 
myself- reminded me of Ehrenzweig's (1967) analysis of creativity that I first studied for 
my master's thesis, and which resonated with my own yet unformulated observations as a 
practitioner. Ehrenzweig's theory brings into light the mythical dimension of the artistic 
work; for me, painting for longer periods of time recalled the Hero's venture in the 
underworld, since the artist had go through similarly distressing ordeals in order to find a 
"treasure hard to attain." 

The element of time appears implicit in Ehrenzweig's (1967) description of the 
creative process as a gradual descent into the artist's "oceanic depth." When I attempted to 


prolong the time allowed for art making in art therapy groups, I noticed that participants 
were able to reach a deeper level of concentration and awareness of their inner world, and 
that the finished image seemed to mirror this "descent." The opposite exercise, consisting in 
working as quickly as possible, brought about an opposite set of qualities: liveliness and 
immediacy. These variations taught me how to modulate time and rhythm in accordance to 
various "therapeutic-aesthetic" objectives. 

Machioldi's (1995) comments that, in contrast with a clinical context that encourages 
quickly made artworks, art experiences produced with the "extended time" period of the 
open studio model result in "more in-depth experiences with the art process" (p. 155). 

Showing reproductions of the art by contemporary artists. 

Showing participants artwork by various contemporary artists in art books is another 
factor that appeared to enhance the creative process during creative workshops. Having an 
overview of the diverse ways in which the creative work can be approached was often 
highly motivating, helping participants to develop their capacity to express themselves in 
their unique ways. Showing reproductions also seemed to have educational value, because it 
helped to demystify the idea that the goal of artistic activity is to create pretty images that 
copy nature. In addition, looking at works by contemporary artists helped the emphasis from 
technique shift towards an emphasis on liveliness and authenticity, grounded in the 
participants' emotional lives. Most of the time, looking at contemporary artworks in the 
beginning of the creativity workshops motivated participants to explore their inner worlds in 
daring ways and allowed them to make greater use of the various possibilities of art media. 

Machioldi (1995) describes the advantages of using a similar approach, which she 
calls the "art history" approach. In her experience, in addition to offering reassurance, 


viewing professional artists' works may represent an important step in developing both a 
wider aesthetic awareness and a deeper engagement in one's own art. 

Demonstration with art materials. 

Demonstrating the various uses of art materials seemed to contribute psychological 
and aesthetic benefits to the process. Participants became less frustrated with the physical 
materials and were better able to concentrate on their creative and psychological processes, 
for a longer period of time. Their capacity to experience playfulness and pleasure was 
enhanced, and their work appeared to facilitate greater imagination and inventiveness. 
Participants were also able to partially relinquish their need to control the process. Instead of 
associating the beginner's inevitable frustrations with feelings of failure, they looked 
forward to continuing their works. My observations also suggest that this approach had the 
capacity to contribute in raising many participants' self-esteem. Together with viewing art 
works produced by professional artists, demonstrating a few technical rudiments for use of 
the art materials seemed to encourage participants with little artistic experience to take 
greater expressive risks. Along with Michael Edwards (1987), I believe that "for the non- 
artist, the prospect of image making is a heroic undertaking, and at this stage the skill of the 
art therapist is often directed at reassurance" (p. 100). 

The use of music, movement and relaxation techniques. 

The passage from an outer space to an inner one was facilitated by introducing 
movement and relaxation techniques in the beginning of sessions. To reduce resistance and 
eliminate the "fear of the blank page," I encouraged participants to perform a "painting 
dance" at the beginning of the workshop. They were incited to continue their movements as 
they began to paint on large paper pinned on the wall. The use of different types of music 


during the session was intended to create a sense of "envelopment" that would provide each 
participant with a psychological space of her own, while simultaneously experiencing the 
synergy created within the group. 

The creativity workshops described above helped me to find new ways of 
encouraging artistic development in my art therapy workshops, and eventually inspired the 
exploration of the aesthetic dimension of art making in my actual research project. Another 
type of art therapy workshops - which I entitled "My Life, an Artist's Book" - are the 
precursors of the narrative aspects developed in this study. In these workshops - which I 
also facilitated several times over the years - the participants used the narrative potential of 
a series of images to re-create their life stories from a new and more actual perspective. 


I selected a purposive sample of 6 women: 3 belonged to Group 1 and 3 belonged to 
Group 2. While my choice was guided largely by the language and cultural concerns stated 
previously, it also reflected my personal interest. The women in Groups 1 and 2 were most 
similar to me. They have been living abroad for a long period of time and their professional 
background is in social work or art. As mentioned earlier, according to the 
phenomenological approach, the researcher's interest motivates uncovering the meaning of 
the experience, and its purpose is largely to test her own understanding of the phenomenon. 

The sample that resulted from this selection is homogenous and provides an in-depth 
description of this particular sub-group. The six women provide information-rich cases 
related to the central issues being studied and the theme of analysis I intended to undertake, 
that is, from the perspective of the archetypal Hero's journey. 


Data Analysis 

Creswell 's General and Phenomenological Analysis Strategies 

Drawing from the work of several authors (Bogdan & Bilken, 1992; Huberman & 
Miles, 1994; and Wolcott, 1994), Creswell (1998) describes a general strategy for data 
analysis, applicable to all research traditions. At first, the researcher proceeds to a general 
review of information in order to get an overall sense of it, and records her response in the 
form of memos and reflective notes. She might then verify the accuracy of the information 
with the participants to obtain feedback about her own reflections. Next the researcher starts 
the process of reducing data, either by searching for metaphors in the participants' 
statements, or translating their ideas into metaphors. The following step consists of 
organizing the resulting information into some means of presentation (diagrams, tables, or 
graphs), representing it by case, by subject, or by theme. Creswell (1998) also proposes an 
alternative way of reducing data, through developing codes or categories, then sorting the 
text or visual images into categories. Regardless of the tradition, Creswell views analysis as 
a spiral composed of analytic circles. 

According to Creswell (1998), one of Moustakas' (1994) two analysis models, called 
a modification of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method, is more frequently used in 
phenomenological research. Creswell describes the main stages of Moustakas' approach to 
analysis, which begins with the description of the researcher's own experience of the 
phenomenon. In a second stage, called "horizontalization," the researcher finds and 
organizes the meaningful segments that reflect the participants' experience of the topic into 
a list. The participants' most significant statements are then grouped into "meaning units," 
which are at the basis of a first, "textural description" of what happened. During the 


following stage, the researcher enriches this description with her own reflections with regard 
to the possible meanings of the experience. After having examined the phenomenon from 
various perspectives, she gradually develops an imaginative variation or "structural 
description" of how the phenomenon was experienced. This refining process leads to an 
overall description of the essence of the experience, followed by a "composite description" 
of the phenomenon. I have adapted a combination of Creswell's (1998) and Moustakas' 
(1994) models to the specificity of my project. 

An Arts-based Phenomenological Approach to Analysis 

The steps of analysis are described in a synthetic manner in Table 1. 

Data Management 

The first step consisted in transcribing and translating interviews and significant 
comments about the images made by each participant during the workshops. I began with 
two folders: in one I arranged slides and photographs of the images according to the order in 
which they had been produced, and in the other I created a section for each participant in 
which I assembled photocopies of the original photographs, the participant's corresponding 
comments, her interview transcript, and my own observational field notes. This procedure 
allowed me to grasp the overall information with regard to each woman. After reading and 
visualizing the material a second time, I selected a purposive sample and wrote reflective 
memos with regard to each of the six women's images and process. I integrated these 
memos into the corresponding section of the folder. 

Research Question l.a 

What story do they tell 

about their migratory process? 

(Chronological Narrative) 

Research Question l.b 

How does their art therapeutic.process refleci 

their perceptions, and what meanings 

do they ascribe to their experiences? 

(Imaginal Narrative) 



Research Question l.c: Theme I 

What are the main aspects of women's smxT^^^^i MtL^, 
experiences with self-identity and exile, 

and how do they participate J \ 1 

to the construction of their identities? I\ 

Research Question 2 

What is the contribution of art therapy 
to the immigrant women's integration 

of the experience of self-identity and exile 9 

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ri uj tt: 22 ^ X 

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Research Question 2.a: Theme II 

What is the contribution of the aesthetic 
experience to women's self-making process? 






Research Question 2.b: Theme III 

What is the contribution of the creative process 
to construing identity and self-coherence? 


The starting point: Research question 1. 

Whereas my first research question - "What is the immigrant women's perception of 
self-identity and exile?" - served at first as a guideline for data collection, it also constituted 
the point of departure for the process of analysis. With this question in mind, I started 
reducing information, organizing it into narratives for each case, and later I integrated this 
material into individual case studies. 

A first set of a priori codes: The chronological and the imaginal narratives. 

The first set of a priori codes relates to the concept of narrative identity, which 
implies that one's perception of oneself is construed through the stories one tells about his or 
her life. In this dissertation, the notion of "telling stories" about one's life has been extended 
to the process of art therapy, through which the participants had the opportunity to enhance 
their account about their migratory experiences. 

The term "chronological narrative" refers to the life story viewed from the 
perspective of the migratory process, as told by the women during Interview 1. The term 
"imaginal narrative" refers to what Hillman (2005) calls "the narrative of the soul," which 
relates one's personal story to the world of imagination, rather than to the concrete events in 
one's life. In contrast to the more linear quality of the chronological narrative, the imaginal 
narrative is sinuous and multilayered, and refers to the world of imagination. 

To create the chronological narratives, I selected the events identified by each 
woman during the interview as being the most significant for her migratory process. I 
organized them into chronological narratives, which provide aspects of the women's 
migratory experiences in their chronological order; they relate to what happened and 
respond to research question l.a: "What story do they tell about their migratory process?" 


To create the imaginal narratives, I assembled the series of images resulting from the 
art therapeutic process and the comments made by the immigrant women in relation to them. 
Instead of merely illustrating the women's migratory itinerary, the imaginal narratives offer 
a metaphorical perspective on how the women have integrated and transformed their 
experiences. They respond to the research question Lb: "How do women's art therapeutic 
processes reflect their perceptions, and what meanings do they ascribe to their experiences?" 

Analysis Part I: Six Heroine 's Journeys 

Case Studies 

The following step consisted in developing 6 case studies that describe the 
immigrant women's outer and inner experiences with identity and exile. They provide an 
account of what has been experienced and how, and are meant to convey an overview of the 
women's creative process. In addition to the two types of narratives developed at the 
previous stage, the case studies include my own comments with regard to the images, which 
I attempted to amplify by referring to their possible symbolic contents and related 
mythological motifs. 

My purpose was to obtain progressively a deeper understanding of the women's 
experiences with immigration on the one hand, and of the psychological processes 
associated to their creative work on the other. I approached the images in their continuity, 
viewing them as parts of a serial whole. I attempted to view the process from the 
participants' perspective by focusing on the images and bracketing my own preconceived 
ideas as much as possible. The title introducing each image is my effort to translate the 
participants' ideas into metaphors, or in some cases, to simply summarize them. 


Two years after the end of the workshop, Interview 2 offered women in the 
purposive sample the occasion to synthesize both their creative processes and their life 
experiences into a new whole. Interview 2 contributes to a more in-depth comprehension of 
women's experiences with identity and exile, as well as their creative processes. Therefore, 
I included significant parts of the verbatim transcript in the section entitled "Two Years 
Interview 2: Verification and Final Data Collection 

The second interview, which took place two years after the end of the workshops, 
lasted between one and two hours and was offered to the six women who were part of the 
purposive sample. The women were first invited to read the verbal narrative and make 
comments with regard to its accuracy. Then they were asked to look at the pictures they 
produced two years earlier, and read through my related comments from their own 
perspectives. Reviewing their images triggered deep emotional responses from most 
participants. The last part of the interview consisted in recounting what happened in the lives 
of the women during the last two years, as well as reflecting upon the impact of the art 
therapeutic process on their current lives. 

As mentioned above, I organized the most significant responses into a third narrative 
entitled "Two Years Later...," which I added to the case study. 

Questionnaire 2. 

1. Describe the most significant events in your life during the last two years. 

2. How do you see your images today? 

3. What was the impact of your participation in the art therapy workshop on 
your life? 


According to the idea that construing one's identity involves continuously re-writing 
one's narrative as new events are occurring in one's life (Freeman, 1991), Interview 2 
offered participants another opportunity infuse their life story with new meaning. Reviewing 
their journeys two years later contributed to (a) framing their narratives in a new and 
conclusive light, and (b) bringing a higher sense of coherence to their life stories. 
A Second Set of a Priori Codes: The Case Studies Viewed as Heroines ' Journeys 

The second set of a priori codes, according to which I segmented each Chronological 
and Imaginal narrative, refers to Campbell's description of the three phases of the Hero's 
archetypal journey: (a) separation, (b) initiation, and (c) return. Jung envisioned the Hero's 
myth as a metaphorical description of the individual's search for his or her singularity. Thus, 
the resulting "mythic narrative" conveys both the participants' migratory and creative 
journeys from the perspective of individuation. 
Summary ofTJiree Heroine's Journeys 

Three case studies (selected at random) have been given closure by a summary of the 
information under the form of three tables for each of them. The first two tables synthesize 
the women's chronological and the imaginal narratives. The third emphasizes the dialectical 
relation between pairs of opposites as well as the mediating elements that led to their union. 
My intention was to exemplify in a syntetic manner the unfolding of the three phases of the 
Heroine's journey. I also wanted to underline the process of integration of opposites into a 
whole, which I viewed as equivalent to healing. Putting a particular emphasis on these 
elements represented an important step in my attempt to understand the similarity between 
individuation, exile, and the creative process in their relation to healing. 


Analysis Part II: Tfiree Perspectives 
On the Immigrant Women 's Creative Journeys 
Continuing the Analytic Process: Interpretation 

Creswell (1998) describes interpretation as making sense of the data and describing 
the lessons learned. According to the author, this phase involves a combination of personal 
views based on "hunches, insights, and intuition" and an "interpretation within a social 
science construct or idea" (p. 145). 

This section of the analysis attempts to synthesize and make sense of the essential 
aspects that characterize the immigrant women's experiences with identity, exile, and artistic 
creation viewed as a whole. Its ultimate purpose is to answer the third, more general 
research question, "What are the main aspects of the process of construing identity, as 
experienced by the immigrant women during their participation to this study?" As 
recommended by Creswell (1998), I enriched this composite description with theoretical 
elements developed in the literature review. 

In order to formulate answers to research question 1, 1 approached the participants' 
experiences from three different perspectives, each corresponding to one of the main topics 
of the literature review: the immigrant women's perception with regard to self identity and 
exile (Theme I), the healing function of the aesthetic experience (Theme II), and the healing 
function of the creative process (Theme Hi). As it will be explained below, these three 
points of view are designed to answer the research questions I.e. (Theme I), 2. a (Theme II), 
and 2.b (Theme III) (see Table 1). The three themes viewed as a whole form a composite 
description of the main aspects of the process of construing identity through art therapy, as 
experienced by the 6 women selected for the purposive sample. 


Theme 1: Immigrant Women 's Perception about Self-Identity and Exile 

After having organized the data into chronological and imaginal narratives in the 
section "Analysis Part I" (which answered the questions La and 1. b), I attempted to answer 
the question l.c: "What are the main aspects of women's experiences with self-identity and 
exile, and how do they participate to the construction of their identities?" The first section of 
the literature review, titled "Contemporary Perspectives on Identity, Exile, and Artistic 
Creation," emphasizes the view of identity as a process and points to its various 
components. For analysis purposes, I divided Theme I into three different sections that 
emphasize identity as a process, and its relation to healing: 

1. The Hero's Myth, the Union of Opposites, and the Healing Process 

2. The Hybrid Identity as Mediating Element between Here and There 

3. Negative Experiences and Coherent Self-Making 
Themes II and II 

Viewed as interdependent, the following 2 themes are concerned with "Aesthetic 
Experience and Healing" (Theme II), and "Creative Process and Healing" (Theme III). They 
respond to the research question 2: "What is the contribution of art therapy to immigrant 
women's integration of the experience of self-identity and exile?" 

Dewey (1980) underscores the capacity of the artistic process to achieve a sense of 
continuity among the artist's experiences and to eventually integrate them into a coherent 
whole. I assume that art therapy has the potential to help displaced people overcome the 
identity problems that result from the migratory process. I believe that this approach can 
contribute to recreating a new sense of balance between the original and the host cultures 
and between inner and outer realities, past and present, conscious and unconscious. 


Theme II: Aesthetic Experience and Healing 

Although it is difficult to differentiate the aesthetic experience from the creative 
process, at this stage of the analysis I attempted to emphasize the aesthetic elements that 
characterize the images and their potential for healing. Theme II attempts to answer the 
question 2. a: "What is the contribution of the aesthetic experience to women's self-making 

The theoretical aspects developed in the literature review with regard to the healing 
dimension of the aesthetic experience initially helped me to design the content of the art 
therapy workshops. During the actual art therapeutic process, I noticed that most women had 
invested their collages with more attention, energy, time, and sense of invention than the 
images made with other art media. Their comments suggested that working on their collages 
represented the peak experience of their process. I thus envisioned the phase "before the 
collage" as a warm-up - a preparation, in view of the peak experience of collage - and the 
phase "after the collage" as a way of finalizing the process. Classifying the images 
according to these observations resulted in three codes related to the topic of aesthetic 
experience and healing: "before the collage," "collage," and "after the collage." 

For analysis purposes, I divided Theme II into two sections, the first accounting of 
the aesthetic experience in relation to the healing process, and the second being concerned 
with the activation of the healing process through collage-making: 

1. Healing and the Union of Opposites 

2. The Collage, a High Point in Immigrant Women's Aesthetic Experience, and a 
Mediator of Opposites 


Theme HI: Creative Process and Healing 

Theme HI answers the research question 2.b: "What is the contribution of the 
creative process to construing identity and creating self-coherence?" Most of the authors 
mentioned in the literature review point out that the healing dimension of the creative 
process is activated as a result of the union of opposites in the artist's psyche; Theme m 
attempts to explore the ways in which the union of opposites is expressed throughout 
women's creative process. 

My initial assumption with regard to the immigrant's identity was that the person 
would first experience a sense of fragmentation, followed by a gradual reintegration of 
various parts of his or her experience into a larger whole. I also assumed that the immigrant 
would be plunged into an initiatory process that would eventually result in profound changes 
with regard to his or her identity. 

This process may eventually lead to the integration of disparate or opposite qualities 
and results in a third, more whole entity, which heals fragmentation and transforms the 
individual. For the immigrant, the journey results in developing a hybrid identity that unifies 
elements belonging to two, often opposite, cultures, and in acquiring a more mature 
personality. The creative process is thought to be similar (Ehrenzweig, 1967) in the sense 
that, if all its phases are lived through by the artist, it leads to a unification of polarized 
psychological aspects. The degree of inner integration of the split-off psychic fragments and 
psychological maturity are reflected in more balanced and achieved artworks. 

For analysis purposes, I divided Theme III into four sections: 

1. Integrating Fragments into a New Whole: Ehrenzweig's Model of Creativity 

2. The Integrative Dimension of the Art Therapy Process 


3. The Series of Images Viewed from the Perspective of Ehrenzweig's Model of 

4. The Collage-Making Viewed from the Perspective of Ehrenzweig's Model of 



Searching for the Juste Milieu: Patricia 
Patricia is an even tempered and sociable fifty-year-old woman. She describes 
herself as a calm person who tends to avoid conflict and who has never experienced passion, 
in either love or other areas of her life. Through the creative process she prepared to 
undertake, she hoped to connect with her passion. During the weekly encounters, Patricia 
often infused the group atmosphere with her cheerful moods and a sense of peacefulness. 
Patricia says she has no doubts with regard to her identity: she defines herself as a 
Chilean woman who has lived half her life in Chile, and the other half in Quebec. Most of 
her friends are Chilean. Although she experiences some nostalgia for her native land, this 
feeling is softened by the presence of her family in Montreal. She says that her family is her 
"real country." Patricia's parents and two daughters live in the neighborhood and visit her 
often. Her children were born in Quebec, but have been educated according to the Chilean 
tradition; although they are well integrated into their actual society, they define themselves 
as Chilean. 

Patricia feels satisfied with her life, which she envisions by decades: she recounts 
that she left her country in her twenties and she gave birth to her two children in her thirties. 
It is during the same decade that she has separated from her husband. In her forties, Patricia 
succeeded in completing her social work degree and started working with immigrant 
women. She is now about to enter the fifth decade of her life, which she would like to 
dedicate to her own individual growth. She envisions the age of fifty as a turning point 


which marks not only her mid-life, but also a shift of her attention from taking care of others 
to taking care of her inner world. 

Patricia 's Chronological Narrative 

Patricia was twenty when Chile, her country of origin, suffered the painful 
repercussions of Pinochet's government coming into power. During that period of time, she 
was studying with the goal of becoming a wise woman. She was terminated from the 
university after being denounced for her involvement with the students association, which 
was considered by the new government to be subversive. Soon after these political events, 
she married and left Chile with her husband. They sought refuge in Canada, where the 
young couple hoped to develop new roots and start a family of their own. 
Initiation and Return 

During the few years that followed her arrival to Canada, Patricia fulfilled her desire 
of having a family of her own. However, not too long after having given birth to her second 
daughter, she separated from her husband. She recounts that, for the last few years, she has 
worked very hard to raise her children and to amass the financial means that would enable 
her to sponsor her parents' immigration to Canada. 

As a result of her 20 years of life in Chile, Patricia held strong communal values, 
according to which helping one another and assisting those in need is essential. Thus she has 
become active within the Chilean community, even though - as she says with a smile - 
during their meetings the women's role was generally serving coffee, while the men were 
discussing politics... 


Faithful to her convictions, Patricia eventually started working in a community 
shelter for immigrant women victims of violence founded by a group of Latin American 
women, where she has been employed for the past twenty years. While being involved with 
this agency, she succeeded in completing a degree in social work. She accounts the 
vacillations of the community shelter, recalling the abrupt departures of certain activists, 
ideological debates, and political upheavals that have taken place within the organization. 
She talks about her own departure and return, only to leave again definitively three years 
later as a consequence of a work incident. One day, two armed men entered the shelter in 
search of a resident, and Patricia witnessed their violence towards that woman. 

The above event resulted into a severe post-traumatic stress for Patricia, as well as 
the breech of her most significant friendship with another woman working at the shelter, 
who she considered as part of her "second family." After that event, which occurred about a 
year before I met her, the focus of Patricia's life started to shift from social action to self- 
development and psychological balance. She eventually started taking classes in art therapy 
to expand her personal and professional horizons. 

Patricia 's Itnaginal Narrative 

Figure 1: Separating from youth's innocent world. 

As she was painting this image, Patricia imagined she was resting in a grassy field 
full of wild flowers. She said she did not represent herself because she did not know how to 
draw people. 

The green field is full of delicate white daisies, evoking spring or early summer. 
There is nobody around, as if Patricia was contemplating the scenery from a distance. The 

Figure 1: Untitled 

As she was painting this image, Patricia 

imagined she was resting in a grassy field. 

Figure2: Untitled 
In this image, she descrobed her sense of being fifty through 
the metaphor of a sunset: the sun is half visible, half hidden. 


Figure 3: Untitled 

She placed herself in the middle as a fifty yeras old woman 

contemplating the light shed by the sun on the floor of a dark room 

Figure 4: Untitled 

She explained that this image conveys her efforts of 

""building a bridge"'' between the two "halves" of her life. 


Figure 5: Untitled 

According to Patricia, the mountains, hills, and ponds she 

drew in this image evoked a very common Chilean landscape. 

Figure 6: Untitled 
Patricia viewed this image as an expression of her inner 
passion, which she hoped to contact through art-making. 


Figure 7: Untitled 

"As I was painting this image, I was seeing a baby, a fetus. 

Perhaps 1 hope to be reborn. I'm looking for balance in my life." 


fresh and quiet atmosphere and the lack of human presence appear to me as evocative of 
Persephone's story, the mythic young girl ravished by Hades, god of the underworld, while 
she was picking flowers in the fields. After her abduction, Persephone was forced by Hades 
to live with him in the underworld one half of each year, and allowed to spend the other half 
in the upper world. She became able to mediate between the two worlds by integrating the 
characteristics of both, and passing from one realm to the other; each autumn she descended 
to the underworld, returning to the upper world in the spring. 

Figure 2: Entering the zenith of life. 

Patricia envisioned her fiftieth decade as her midlife. In this image, she described her 
sense of being fifty through the metaphor of a sunset: the sun is half visible, half hidden. 

For me, the sunset evokes a contained fire cooling down into the sea at the end of the 
day. As the sun goes down, a few yellow sparkles still recall the daylight while 
foreshadowing the gradual arrival of the darkness. "Like the sun, the ego must prepare itself 
for a plunge into the darkness of the unconscious underworld, where it will experience 
rejuvenation," wrote Sandner (1991, p. 157). 

Like Persephone, the sun, as represented in this picture, seems to mediate between 
two worlds. In various cultures, the sun is viewed as a vital source of light, warmth and 
creativity, but also as psychopompe or initiator. In this second symbolic function, the sun is 
believed to fetch human beings into the realm of the dead, where some are put to death, and 
others are guided back toward the upper world the next day (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 
The opposites of water and fire can reflect such polarities as active-passive or male-female. 
They also can recall the death-and-rebirth initiation rites in which the purification through 
fire is usually completed by purification through water. 


Whereas Figure 1 may be envisioned as Patricia's separation from both her youth 
and from her homeland, Figure 2 marks the transition between young and old age, a time 
span which she has spent in Canada. The diagonal line in Figure 1 and the horizontal line in 
Figure 2 separate each image in halves while allowing colors to interpenetrate in the middle 
of the images. Green and blue share an equal space in Figure 1 , and orange and blue, in 
Figure 2. According to Chevalier and Geerbrandt (1982), both green and orange are situated 
mid-way between polarities, green mediating between "hot and cold," and also between "up 
and down," and orange, between "spirit and libido." In the two pictures, both green and 
orange are opposed to blue, but in reversed positions. The brush strokes underline the 
difference between the two images, by emphasizing a sense of dynamism in Figure 1 and of 
quietness in Figure 2. 
Initiation: Home is where the Family Is 

Figure 3: Redefining who she is. 

Patricia commented that she chose the images for this third collage in an instinctive 
manner. A huge cat watches over her life, whose different aspects are held together by green 
plants, symbolizing growth and continuity. She placed herself in the middle as a fifty years 
old woman contemplating the light shed by the sun on the floor of a dark room. Around her, 
other significant images represent her family and its female lineage; continuity of life is 
symbolized by food and the hopes of the youth for the future. The photograph of a street in a 
Brazilian village reminded her of her home town, with its people plagued by poverty. A 
small foot on top of a huge foot evoked for her the idea of roots. 


Figure 4: Creating an affective garden between "here" and "there. " 

Patricia's creative journey reached its peak as she was working on her second 
collage, a process that lasted about eight hours. She explained that this image conveys her 
efforts of "building a bridge" between the two "halves" of her life, of finding a way to bring 
together both her life in her homeland and that in her host country. 

Her point of departure for this image was the only existing photograph of the house 
in which she had lived between the ages of 6 and 22. Since the photograph showed only half 
of the house, her first idea was to complete it by painting the missing part. She then decided 
to add some light inside, to suggest that it was still inhabited. The second step consisted in 
assembling personal photographs and magazine images that would create a sense of 
continuity between past and present. Patricia wanted to convey the idea that the continuity 
between the two worlds was insured by the transmission of culture from generation to 
generation. She placed the photograph of her two daughters in the foreground and that of her 
parents in the background; in the middle of the image, her granddaughter represents the 
bridge between past and present. 

The first collage seems to represent a warm-up which allowed Patricia to achieve the 
second collage. After contemplating the scattered but significant fragments of her life and 
attempting to pull them together, Patricia was able to proceed to a new and more achieved 
synthesis. The final result conveys a sense of joy and vitality, of smooth transition between 
two worlds. The delicate daisies from Figure 1 are replaced in this collage by colorful 
flowers in blossom. Personal photographs and magazine images intermingle harmoniously 
and were integrated into a new whole by Patricia's patient painting process. Whereas in 
Figure 3 she occupies the center of the image, in Figure 4 she makes way for the new baby, 


her granddaughter - a symbol of renewal and continuity for her own life. This collage 
conveys Patricia's existential awareness with regard to the passage of time and a sense of 
spiritual regeneration. 
Return: An Evocation of New Possibilities 

Figures 5 and 6: Getting in touch with passion. 

Patricia made few comments about these three images, which she produced during 
the same session. She experimented with watercolor pencils and pastels, media that she has 
not had used previously, and ended up with a last image painted with tempera. Representing 
a stretch of water surrounded by mountains, Figure 5 recalls the landscape of Patricia's 
hometown. The water takes the form of a half circle, which will eventually be completed 
under the form of a mandala in Figure 7. 

Figure 6 is infused with the boldness and vitality developed by Patricia throughout 
her creative process and seems to fulfill the wish she expressed at the beginning of the 
workshop - getting in touch with her passion. The contained fire evoked by the sun in 
Figure 2 has been replaced in this image by a few energetic and somewhat freer flames on a 
violet background, a color described by Chevalier and Geerbrant (1982) as a "color of 
secrecy, behind which the mystery of transformation is accomplished." The idea of 
transformation is reinforced by the presence of the fire, an element often associated with 
rites of passage. Made of equal proportions of blue and red, violet is also viewed as a 
symbol of temperance, a mediator between passion and intelligence that also evokes the 
autumnal involution from life to death (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 


Figure 7: The mandala. 

Patricia gave closure to her journey by creating the mandala in Figure 7, which 
brings together a softer version of the colors she used previously. The image reminds me of 
a placenta floating in its amniotic liquid, in the middle of which a germ or a fetus seems to 
be developing. As such, it evokes the "oceanic feeling" described by Ehrenzweig (1967) in 
relation to the incubation phase that characterizes the creative process, and also Jung's view 
of the mandala as symbol of wholeness and mediator between opposites. This image 
suggests that Patricia has achieved a degree of inner synthesis, which could foster new 
possibilities with regard to her inner change. 

Two Years Later. . . 

In the beginning of the interview, Patricia talked about her recent trip to Chile, where 
she had traveled with her parents and grand-daughter. She explained that she was now 
experiencing nostalgia in relation to her homeland, and that her longing was amplified by 
her parents' prolonged sojourn in Chile, where they were staying for a few more weeks after 
she returned. Patricia evoked her close relationship with her mother, and the warm sense of 
belonging she experienced in relation to her family. She then discussed the advantages and 
disadvantages of having her family live in the neighborhood, and shared that - although 
sometimes she felt overwhelmed with her mother's daily presence in her life - she was 
grateful for her parents' proximity. "I'm very family oriented, but I also enjoy my solitude. I 
don't like being invaded. There is a danger in being neighbors, for my mother comes 
without announcing herself. Yes, but I let her do that only up to a certain point. It is tacit 
between us; she understands." 


Reviewing the Images 

Figure 1. 

For Patricia, Figure 1 evoked her childhood garden. She recounted that, when she 
was a little girl, she used to hide in the tall grass sprinkled with delicate white flowers; her 
mother used to often look for her while she would remain hidden, enjoying this little hide- 
and-seek game. 

Figures 2 and 3. 

Patricia made no comments about these images. 

Figure 4. 

Patricia evoked the great intensity of her work on this collage: "I was very involved. 
The garden existed in real life, although it used to be less luxurious." She recounted that all 
the houses in her neighborhood have been gradually replaced by condominiums, and that the 
olive tree in front of the house is the only thing that has been spared. One day, as she was 
turning over the pages of an old family album, she came across a photograph representing 
her whole family gathered around the olive tree, with the new condominiums in the 
background. These radical urban changes had a great impact on her sister's life, recalled 
Patricia. After their parents' departure to Canada, her sister continued to live in the family's 
house - which appears in Patricia's collage - but at one point she had to sell it to the 
property developers who were building the condominiums in the area. However, she 
managed to preserve the main door of the family house, which she installed at the entry of 
her new home and transplanted the olive tree in her garden. "As far as I'm concerned, I did 
not keep anything, except this photograph of the family house, for which I invented a superb 


garden," Patricia concluded, adding that she has sent her sister a copy of the collage, which 
she greatly enjoyed. 

Figure 5. 

According to Patricia, the mountains, hills, and ponds she drew in this image evoked 
a very common Chilean landscape. She associated the landscape to the feeling of nostalgia 
she experienced in relation to her homeland. 

Figure 6. 

Patricia viewed this drawing as an expression of her inner passion, which she hoped 
to contact through art-making; she noticed that the fire - which in this image represented her 
passion - was cooled down by the color violet. This observation brought Patricia to 
comment about an aspect that, according to her, characterized her personality that is, her 
constant tendency to temperate any strong manifestation of emotions. She explained that in 
her life, she always searched for inner equilibrium, "for a mid-point between opposite 
tendencies. I have to search for it over and over again." 

/ always made an effort to correct my negative tendencies, so that my negative side 

wouldn 't take over my enthusiastic side. Sometimes I feel a little depressed, but I 

don 't panic. I usually reassure myself by thinking that it is normal to feel this way, 

since I just returned from Chile, and I don 't have a job. I thus forgive myself for 

experiencing these feelings. 

Now Vm preparing the house for my mother, who will soon be back; I clean, 

and I throw out the old stuff she has accumulated with time. This occupies me, and I 

forget to look for a job. 


Figure 7. 

"As I was painting this image, I was seeing a baby, a fetus. Perhaps I hope to be 
reborn. I'm looking for balance in my life. I have always looked for balance. Here I can 
perceive it in the opposition of colors." 

Patricia 's Journey: a Summary 
Table 1: Patricia's Chronological Narrative 







-Dictatorial country 

-Separates from her husband 

-Involves herself with the 

(Pinochet's repressive 

-Raises her two children by herself 

Chilean community 

government replaced 

-Works hard to make a 

on a social and 

Allende's progressive 

living, and studies in 

political level 

political approach 

Social Work 

-Chooses a helping 

-Collectivistic culture 

- Sponsors her parents' 

profession, through 

-Deeply ingrained 

immigration to Canada 

which she can share 

attachment to family 

-Finds a job in a shelter for 

her aptitudes 

and community 

battered immigrant women 

-Works with immigrant 

-When the coup d'etat took 

-Suffers post-traumatic 

women, using her experience 

place, she was studying in a 

stress after witnessing a violent 

to help others 

helping profession (midwife) 

event at the women's 

-Participates in ideological 


debates related to 


-Loses her job, her best 

immigrant women's 

-Sent down from university, 

friend, and her "second 


under the accusation of being 

family" as a consequence 

involved in subversive activities 

of the above incident 
- Mourns her losses 


for a longtime 

-As a refugee 

-Has difficulties in 

-Accompanied by her husband 

finding a new, rewarding job 

-Hopes to grow roots in a free 

country and found a family 

of her own 

Table 2: Patricia 's Imaginal Narrative 











-Recalls past memories of 
family and home 
-Evokes the absence 
of what has been 
-Experiences nostalgia 


-The light brushstrokes 
evoke the airy, sunny, 
daylight atmosphere that 
defines her perception of 

-The diagonal line in 
the middle amplifies a 
sense of dynamism 



-Gathers together the pieces 
of her past 

-Integrates her identity 
fragments into a new whole 
-Creates linkages between 
the scattered aspects of her 

-Defines her midlife identity 
-Contemplates opposites, 
such as shadow and light, 
abundance and scarcity 


-Links fragments with a 
vigorous line evoking 
liveliness and roots 
-The integration of the black 
cat seems to evoke both 
shadow and domesticity 



-Glances backward once 
again at her homeland's 
familiar landscapes 
-The sense of emptiness 
and aridity evoked by 
the barren scenery 
contrasts with the 
luxuriance of the 
previous image 
-The circular lake recalls 
the half of a mandala 


-The thick, bold lines 
that enclose the 
mountains and the wavy 
forms that surround the 
lake suggest circularity 
-If the whole landscape 
was completed, it would 
probably result in an 
approximate circular 



-Turns inward, initiates 
the descent (the sun goes 

-Acknowledges her 
midlife reality 


-The image contrasts with 
the previous one 
-Horizontal, heavier, 
continuous brushstrokes 
-The horizontal line in 
the middle confers a sense 
of slow movement and 
-Darker colors 



-Reconciles opposites 
("here" and "there") 
-Re-construes her home by 
completing the missing part 
-Illuminates her renovated 
home from inside 
-Revives her garden with 
luxurious vegetation 
-Construes a new, 
in-between identity 


-The bold brushstrokes, the 
contrasting colors and the 
emphasis on the luxuriance 
of the garden convey a 



-Initiates the completion 

of her journey by 

contacting her passion 

(her initial goal) 

-Tends toward a 


by moderating the fire 


-The bold orange lines 
fulfill the function of 
containing the flames 
-The violet background 
contrasts with the orange 
and tempers it 


sense of joy, dynamism 
and growth, which is 
amplified by the presence 
of people 



-Gathers all her 
fragments around 
a central point and 
contains them within a 

-The symbols of the 
fems and the 
mandala suggest the 
possibility of rebirth 


-The brushstrokes and 
the colors suggest 
circularity and fluidity of 

Table 3: Patricia 's Opposites 







-Sky versus earth 

-Inner versus outer 

-Light versus shadow 

-Light (sky) versus heavy 

-Hot versus cool 

-Abundance versus 


-Masculine (sun) versus 
feminine (water) 




-No mediating element, the 


-The middle-aged woman 

image being split into two 

-The reflection of the sun 



onto the water; gives the 

impression that half of the 

sun has penetrated into the 


-The line between the two 

halves; colors 


in the middle 

the center, 
-The vine 
-The cat 







-Here versus there 

-Mountain versus water 
-Hard versus soft 

-Orange versus violet 
-Hot versus coolness 


-Vegetation versus 

-Passion versus 

-The child 



-The garden 

-The four generations 



-The house 

-The drawing itself 

-The drawing itself, 

-The light in the house 

re-conciliates these 

since the co-existence 

-The olive tree 


by gathering them together 

of these polarities onto 
the same support leads to 
a midpoint between the 







-The contrasts between 


-Image 1 (youth) versus 




-Solid versus liquid 

2 (middle-age) 



-The mandala 

-The art therapy session 

-The baby 


since the two images have 
been painted within the 
same session 

"I Emerge and I Soar": Nahla 

In her early fifties, Nahla conveys an enveloping sense of warmness and a deep 
interest in the life stories shared by other group participants. She says she welcomed the 
opportunity to share her migratory experience and exchange her reflections with other 
immigrant women. When she signed up, she was preparing for a trip to Egypt, her 
homeland, which she had not visited for many years. She expressed her hope that her 
participation to the workshop would help her make sense of this experience, which she 
expected to trigger deep emotions. 

Nahla' s reflections revolved around her sense that something was missing in her life, 
that somehow she had depleted a part of herself. This sensation often depresses her, she 
commented. In the past, she associated "happiness" with being surrounded by family. 
Today, although she still considers her family's presence in her life as vital, she describes 
the absence of that essential "something" as a feeling of emptiness, a "hole" inside herself, a 
piece of the puzzle that "doesn't fit anywhere." 

As far as her perception of herself as an immigrant, Nahla says that she feels well 
adapted to her host culture. However, she finds it easier to relate to other immigrant 


coworkers than to their national counterparts. In her view, her family life and work 
environment are two radically different universes. Most of her friends are compatriots who 
immigrated to Canada during the same period of time. Nahla observes that her contacts with 
a new culture have progressively contributed to deep changes in herself, her spouse and 
family, and her friends. Due to these changes, her relationship with her husband became 
conflictual at one point, and eventually threatened to destroy their marriage. Things 
improved with time, and the couple managed to preserve some important common values, 
such as the loyalty towards one's family and the importance of helping other people in need. 
She points out that such values seem to be unimportant here in Canada, where individualism 
is promoted as the main value. 

Nahla's two children are now in their twenties. Because they are not yet married, 
they still live with their parents, according to the Egyptian custom. They envision 
themselves as Egyptian and don't feel identified with their host culture. They chose to study 
in an English school where they have developed friendships with other young immigrants. 
Nahla points out that her children respect the Egyptian tradition. Her twenty-year-old 
daughter, for example, still asks her for permission before dating a new boyfriend, even 
though her mother encourages her to be independent. With regard to her son, Nahla related 
that when a serious conflict occurred between him and his father, he accepted the 
intervention of a family friend who was mandated to help resolve the disagreement, 
according to the Egyptian custom. 


Nahla 's Chronological Narrative 

Born in Egypt, Nahla belongs to a minority group of Christians who were 
discriminated against in her country; they had little opportunities to find jobs and to acquire 
a satisfying social and economic status. Nahla describes her former community as modern, 
with Western values. As a consequence of a situation that created deep dissatisfaction 
amongst the members of her family, they eventually set out for exile, one by one. After a 
short passage through the United States - where two of her husband's siblings already lived 
- Nahla, her husband, and their two children immigrated to Canada. 

Nahla and her family have been living in Montreal for 17 years. When she first 
arrived to Montreal, Nahla had to give up her professional and social status, because her 
training in Egypt (Middle-Eastern Studies) did not correspond to the Canadian requirements. 
Soon after her arrival, she started working as a secretary, a job that she did not find 
stimulating. A few years later, another trial awaited her - she discovered that she had 
developed breast cancer. Nahla's life situation eventually precipitated a period of 
depression. A counselor, whom she consulted at that time, suggested that starting a new 
university degree may give her life new meaning. Nahla took her first social work course the 
very day that she started her chemotherapy treatment. She eventually recovered from her 
cancer and succeeded in completing her social work degree eight years later. 

The drastic change of environment due to immigration resulted in significant conflict 
within her marriage. Nahla's husband resisted the new culture he was confronted with by 
reinforcing his conservative attitudes. Nahla says she never agreed with the idea that, once 


married, a woman had to surrender to her husband - a view promoted by traditional Egyptian 
values. North American values with regard to women's station contributed to reinforcing 
Nahla's feeling of injustice with regard to her position at home, and eventually prompted her 
to temporarily leave her husband. Following her departure, her husband made great efforts 
to understand her perspective and change his own. Nahla returned home and their 
relationship improved. 

In Nahla's memory, the symbol of the sea remains forever associated to her initiation 
into the condition of the exile. She recounts that, during a vacation in the United States with 
her family, she was bathing in the sea and the high tide rose so suddenly that it threatened to 
drown her. She was so terrorized that she couldn't move or scream. As she was momentarily 
rooted to the spot, she had the thought that she would die abroad, far from her family and 
country. Eventually, her survival instinct took over and she was rescued by the life guard. 
She was thus able to return to the shore. On another occasion, during a recent trip to Egypt, 
she bathed again in the sea and thought that if she was to die at that moment it would be 
easier for her, for she would die in her home. However, for Nahla, the sea recalls not only 
memories of nostalgia and depression associated with her condition as an immigrant, but 
also happy childhood recollections that reinforce her sense of belonging. As a child, she 
used to spend many happy summer vacations in the company of her extended family, in a 
small cottage by the sea - a lost paradise that is evoked by Nahla during the workshop. 

In her actual life, Nahla offered the community the fruits of her initiation into the 
hardships of an immigrant journey. She got her first job as a social worker a few years ago, 
and she currently works with immigrant families. She enjoys being able to help other 

I A»- 

Figure 1 : "I don 't Fit in, whether in the Past, Present, or Future " 
She felt that, no matter where she went, she has always felt 
a "minority,"'"' with the result of not being at home anywhere. 

Figure 2: "The Sun of my Country Bathes Fields, and Seas " 

She perceived the sea as disquieting and agitated; she evoked her 

previous trip to the Unites States, when she was almost drawn. 


Figure 3 : "I Carry you in my Arms " 

"In Egypt, the corn in the ear is a symbol of richness, 

a sign of generosity and sharing, which recalls life itself" 

Figure 4: "I 'm Bathing in the Sunlight " 

"As I was working on this collage, I didn't know wheather 

the person was coming forward, or going away.*'"' 


Figure 5. a: Untitled 

"This image is unfinished. In fact, the horse represents 

the donkey, the poor pesanf s faithful companion in Egypt. " 

Figure 5: "I Emerge, and I soar" 

"The house resembles a boat floating on a tranquil sea. 

When 1 look at it, 1 experience a sense of serenity" 


Figure 6: "The altitudes " 

"We were driving towards the beach, when we saw a stretch of green 

palms in the distance. 1 viewed them as representative of Egypt. 1 often 

usedto draw this image. It is my favorite one, rich, humid, and lively." 



women with migratory experiences similar to hers. She says she feels happy that the 
knowledge she has acquired during her journey has become useful for others. 

The Imaginal Narrative 
Separation: A Pervasive Sense of Absence 

Figure 1: "I Don 't Fit In, Wiethe r in the Past, Present or Future. " 
When the workshop started, Nahla was away on a trip to Egypt, the first one she 
undertook after living abroad for 17 years. She returned from her journey just in time for the 
second session. She was deeply moved by her experience and shared with the group the 
feeling that no matter where she went, she has always felt "a minority," with the result of not 
having a sense home anywhere. This feeling has always accompanied her and is conveyed in 
the Figure 1, titled "I Don't Fit In, Whether in the Past, Present or Future." She described 
her drawing as representing a landscape with an empty hole in the middle. This hole cannot 
ever be filled up; it will always be there, she added. 

The picture conveys a sense of melancholy. The sun is partly covered by a series of 
green and grey clouds that may also evoke a wavy field. A delicate pink and brown horizon 
separates the sky from the verdant fields in the middle, in which empty hole opens and is 
surrounded by black earth. In my imagination, the hole evokes an opening into the 
underworld, an invitation to descend. The color of mourning and melancholy in Western 
culture, black, is also the color of fertile earth, and is viewed as a symbol of fecundity in the 
ancient Egypt and in North Africa. From a similar perspective, the Chinese associate black 
with the yin principle, which is earthy, instinctive, and maternal (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 


Figure 2: "The Sunlight of my Country Bathes Fields and Seas. " 

Fortunately the sun exists everywhere, said Nahla, as she showed her image to the 
group (Figure 2). This image was painted immediately after Figure 1. On the violet 
background, she wrote its title in French: "Le soleil de mon pays baigne champs et mers" 
("The Sunlight of my Country Bathes Fields and Seas"). 

A huge sun seems to be at its greatest strength as it sends its rays from the violet sky 
toward the green "fields and seas" of Nahla' s imaginary homeland. Both the sea and the sun 
are important symbols for Nahla. In her image, the sea and the earth become one. Both 
elements are often associated with the feminine principle, in that everything comes out of 
them and returns to them; they both symbolize the dynamics of life and the maternal 
function. This image is separated into two opposite halves, the sky and sun representing the 
masculine principle (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). The color violet alludes to the idea of 
descent, bereavement, and mysterious transformation. As for the sun, amongst other 
symbolic significations, it fulfills the function of psychopompe, of initiator into the realm of 
the dead (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

Viewed in their continuity, Figures 1 and 2 seem to recall the legend of Inanna, the 
goddess of the upper world who descended into the underworld to meet Ereskigal, her dark 
sister. In order to integrate both light and shadow, she had to undertake a perilous journey 
throughout a universe dominated by suffering and mourning. 

Figure 3: "I Carry You in my Arms." 

For Nahla, Figures 3 and 4 are self-explanatory, as their content corresponds to their 
titles: "Je te porte dans mes bras" ("I Carry You in my Arms") and "La lumiere me baigne" 
("The Sunlight is Bathing Me"). 


In Figure 3, a "National Geographic" photograph is beautifully integrated into a 
pastel drawing that extends its motif onto the blue paper. Someone is holding in his or her 
arms a bunch of ripe wheat glittering in the sunlight. The image evokes the harvest season. 
The wheat appears in the symbolism of various civilizations as a gift of life from the gods. 
This symbolism can be associated with the mystic ceremony commemorating the union 
between Demeter and Zeus in which a wheat grain is used as an offering to Demeter, the 
goddess of fecundity and great initiator into the mysteries of life. The grain was then 
contemplated in silence as a way of acknowledging the perennial return of the harvest. The 
silent contemplation was also used to evoke the alternation between the death of the grain 
and its resurrection through the growth of new grain. This ceremony has been compared to 
the evocation of the death and rebirth of the god Dionysus. The religious symbolism of the 
wheat resides in the feeling of harmony between human life and nature, both of them 
surrendering to similar cycles. The color yellow, color of the ripe corn in the ear, is 
described as "the warmest, the most expansive and ardent of colors, symbol of the 
alchemical grand oeuvre" (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982, p 535). 

Figure 4: "I'm Bathing into the Sunlight. " 

This collage entitled "Je me baigne dans la lumiere" ("I'm Bathing into the 
sunlight") appears to have been created in a spirit similar to the previous one (Figure 3). At 
sunset, a human figure seems to come towards the viewer, or go towards the sunlight across 
the desert. The symbolism of crossing the desert or wandering across, may suggest a quest 
for the essence of life, for the Promised Land, or for the Grail (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 
1982). As in Figure 1, the sky and the earth are represented by the same wavy lines because 
they are one and the same. 


Initiation: Immersing and Emerging 

Figure 5: "I Emerge and I Soar. " 

The nostalgic Egyptian music of Dalida, brought by Nahla in the beginning of the 
fourth session, evoked for the other women in the group the national dance in Nahla' s home 
country, known as Balladi. Someone suggested that they dance together, and Nahla 
demonstrated the movements. While dancing, Nahla appeared transformed by the newly- 
awakened memory of her body: ". . .suddenly, something that was there could not be 
expressed in words - a gift, a woman's prayer filled the room, borne by the subtle, nearly 
wise movements of one who stood far ahead of us in the long chain of women," wrote Al- 
Rawi (1999, p. 23) about the deep cultural and spiritual signification of this dance. 

The photograph with which Nahla started her collage features the cottage by the sea 
in which she spent all her childhood summer vacations. She continued her work by 
gradually incorporating her family's photographs into the collage. She commented that she 
used to keep them in a drawer in her actual house; she never thought that one day she would 
use them or that they would awake such powerful feelings. According to Nahla, this collage 
represents the story of her life: a house with a straw roof, animals (especially horses), and 
her family. Today, three-quarters of the people who used to go to that house are already 

Nahla worked more than one session on this collage. When she started it, she felt that 
the sky looked threatening, while in her recollections, her childhood was rather serene. She 
struggled for some time with her artwork to modify the sky according to her happy 
memories. She remembered that I had commented that one could use tempera in successive 
layers until obtaining the desired result. In the course of conversation with me, Nahla 


realized that she tended to evoke the happy moments of her early childhood as a "lost 
paradise." Her feelings of loss and grieving were reinforced when another woman in the 
group played a recording of some nostalgic Turkish music. Nahla felt so overwhelmed by 
her strong sense of sadness and melancholy that she felt she wanted to leave, but she stayed, 
"by respect for the other women." 
Return: An Oasis in the Desert 

Figure 6: "The altitudes. " 

Nahla' s last image represents a recollection of her recent trip to Egypt, from which 
she returned before the beginning of the art therapy workshop. She painted it right after she 
finished her collage and her mood radically changed. Overwhelmed by melancholic feelings 
after revisiting her homeland and her past during both her real and imaginary trip to her 
country of origin, she felt the need to return to the present. This last image is a replica of the 
only photograph that she took during her trip to Egypt. She explained that while traveling in 
her country of origin, she was unable to write, draw, or take photographs, except for this 
one. She added that her husband expressed the desire to die there; as for herself, she said she 
would prefer to die near her children. 

In its evocation of the luxurious vegetation of the Egyptian oasis, Figure 6 contrasts 
with Nahla's previous images. It is as if, having visited the lost paradise of her childhood 
and her inner desert, her psyche needed to reestablish balance, find an inner oasis, and give 
closure to a demanding journey. It is not surprising that the palm tree, often considered as a 
symbol of victory, ascension, regeneration, and immortality (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982), 
intervenes to reestablish balance to the picture and to Nahla's previous images. 


Two Years Later... 

Two years after the end of the art therapy workshop, Nahla was still experiencing 
difficulties in her marriage. Her husband was currently unemployed, a situation that affected 
a relationship already weakened by previous conflicts. Nahla felt that these difficulties were 
due to her "somewhat depressive, anguished, and defensive personality" on the one hand, 
and to a conflict between her husband's values and her own on the other. During the years 
spent in Quebec, Nahla became acquainted with an egalitarian model of relationships 
between men and women, and as a consequence, she grew more aware of her dissatisfaction 
with her partnership. Seven years ago, her discontentment prompted her to leave her spouse 
for some time. According to Nahla, her husband was a traditional man with strong Catholic 
values, who believed - except in cases of physical violence - that separation and divorce 
were unacceptable, and that spouses rather should work through their disagreements in order 
to avoid their children's suffering. Today however, despite Nahla's current efforts to 
reconcile their opposite values, her spouse still blamed her for having left him and their 
family; he also believed that their son's current marital problems were due to her past 
Reviewing the Images 

Figure 1. 

"Today, the feeling of lack is not as intense as it used to be," commented Nahla in 
relation to Figure 1 . According to her, the "hole" represented in the drawing was half- full 
now, since she did not experience nostalgia with the same intensity as she used to; she felt 
more at peace with her life, more solid, and she was regularly trying to put things into 


Figure 2. 

Nahla perceived the sea in Figure 2 as disquieting and agitated. She pointed out that 
the sun is an important symbol for her, since it is representative of her homeland. She also 
recalled her previous trip to the United States, when she was almost drowned; she 
commented that, although the sea still fascinated her, she did not trust it anymore. 

Figure 3. 

"In Egypt, the ear of corn is a symbol of richness, a sign of generosity and sharing, 
which recalls life itself; it represents an offering to one's family and friends, rather than to 
oneself. It is also a symbol of the Egyptian peasant." 

Figure 4. 

"As I was working on this collage, I didn't know whether the person was coming 
forward or going away. Today, I know that she comes towards the viewer in the sunset 

Figure 5 a. 

"This image is unfinished. In fact, the horse represents a donkey, the poor peasant's 
faithful companion in Egypt. It is part of Egyptian symbolism." 

Figure 5. 

According to Nahla, the photographs she had used for this collage represent Nahla 
and her family, at different ages. Although they have been taken at different times, she 
assembled them together as if they represented one and the same moment. The pictures 
placed in the foreground are meant to emphasize that they have been infused by Nahla with 
high significance. 


The house resembles a boat floating on the tranquil sea. It is early in the morning, 
before the sunrise. When I look at it, I experience a sense of serenity. I am floating 
on these soft waters, sensing that I'm close to the shore. The boat is stable, and, in 
comparison to the threatening waters in Figure 2, here the sea is calm and 
reassuring. The soaring birds with their open wings represent unfettered freedom. 
Figure 6. 

In Figure 6, Nahla reproduced through painting the only photograph she took during 
her recent trip to Egypt. According to her, although the palms did not have a specific 
symbolism in Egypt, their omnipresence made them representative of her country. For her, 
the title "The Altitudes" evoked the palms, with their crowns soaring towards the sky. 

We were driving towards the beach, when we saw a stretch of green palms in the 
distance. I viewed them as representative of Egypt. Before participating in the art 
therapy workshop, I often used to draw this image. It is my favorite one: rich, 
humid, and lively. 

Nahla noticed that, as she was reviewing her images, she was very emotional. 
However, she found that today she was feeling less sad than two years ago. The workshop 
"made me know myself; it taught me to express who I was in other ways, although most of 
the time I did not know what I was representing on the paper," she commented by way of 


Nahla 's Journey: A Summary 
Table 4: Nahla 's Chronological Narrative 







-Belongs to an Egyptian Christian 

-Loses her professional and 

-Works with immigrant 




-Comes from a collectivistic 

status through immigration 

-Uses her experience as an 

culture: helping one another, 

-Experiences couple problems 

immigrant woman in 

generosity, and stable 

because of adopting new 


relationships represent 



fundamental values for her 

in the host country 
-Suffers from depressive 



-Her community used to be 

-Suffers because of the 

discriminated against, both on a 

individualistic values of the 


host society 

and economic level 

-Has a near-death experience, 
as she was bathing into the 



-Eighteen years ago, with her 

-Is diagnosed with cancer 


-Studies in social work 

-Hoped to find a society 

-Adopts her new profession 

that offers egalitarian 

opportunities for all 

-Has transited through 

the USA, where she has 

family and friends 

Table 5: Nahla 's Imaginal Narrative 










-Impression that she 

not belong anywhere 
-Experiences a sense of 
emptiness and 



-Experiences nostalgia with 

regard to the 

values that characterize 

her culture 

(generosity, offering the 



-Finds a fertile oasis in the 
desert, a place to rest after 
an arid trip across the desert 
-The theme of soaring is 
transposed onto the palms, 
whose branches soar toward 


harvest to family, and friends) 

the "altitudes" 


-Integrates this fragment into a 

-The process brings her to 

-The empty hole evokes 

larger landscape 

evoke a happy image, as 

the heroine's "call," an 

evoking fertility and ripeness 


invitation to descent into 

during her recent 

the underworld 


-Integrates harmoniously 

trip to Egypt 


the photograph fragment with 


-Employed over the 

pastel drawing 

-The lush green gives an 

water colors, the dry 

-The centrality and the 

impression of luxuriant 

pastel veils 

concreteness of the 

vegetation and suggests 

the atmosphere with a 

photograph emphasizes the 

the existence of water 

grey cloud 

importance of its 

-The playful brushstrokes 

-The green fields 


convey a sense of joy 


with the darkness of the 

earth that surrounds the 






-The point of view over 


somber, agitated waters 

seem to suggest that the 

artist is already inside 

the sea 

-The image recalls her 

experience of being 


to drown and her 

fascination with the sea 


-The brushstrokes evoke 
tormented feelings 
-The position of the sun 
suggests it is perhaps 
late in the afternoon 
-The purple in the 
evokes a dark sky 

-Integrates a fragment into the 

dry landscape of the 


-The crossing of the desert 

evokes the 

suffering involved in the 

individuation process 

-In contrast with the previous 


which alludes to 

fertility, this image is about 

dryness and aridity 


-In contrast with the previous 


the figure occupies an 

eccentric position 


-Works through emotions 

while she 

transforms the 

threatening sky into a 

serene one 

-Gathers the emerging 

memories of her "lost 

paradise" around the image of 


-Fixates the newly retrieved 


recollections in her memory: 
the house floats on a quiet sea, 
close to the shore 
-The contact with these 
fundamental aspects of 
her identity has a reviving 
effect, heightening her mood 
and giving her wings: 
"I emerge and I soar" 


-Experiences and struggles 
with the resistance to the 
medium and to surrender 
her desire of transforming 
a threatening sky into a 
serene one 

-The faded black and white 
photographs contrast with 
the crispy tempera colors 
-Placing the photographs in the 
foreground underlines 
their high significance for the 

Table 6: Nahla 's Opposites 







-Sky versus earth 

-Dark (sky, water) versus 

-Fragment (photograph) 

-Full versus empty 

light (sun) 

versus whole (field) 

-White versus black 

-Hot (sun) versus 
cool (sea) 

-Concrete (photograph) 
versus imagined (pastel) 





-The drawing itself 

-The violet background 
-The painting itself 

-The collage itself 







-Fragment (photograph) 

-Black & white versus 

-Earth versus sky 

versus whole (desert) 


-Roots versus branches 

-Concrete (photograph) 

-Depth versus height 


versus imagined 

-Flying versus floating 




-The painting itself 
-The line separating the 


-The house 

earth from the sky (spots 


-The sea 

of green interpenetrate 

-The collage itself 

-The collage itself 

with the blue of the sky) 







-Fertile versus arid 


-Desert versus sea 


-Desert versus oasis 


-Central versus 


-Dry versus wet 


-Dry versus fertile 





-The time sequence (the 

-Fragmented versus 




-The time sequence (the 

collages have been 

-The time sequence (the 

two collages have been 



created during the same 

in subsequent sessions) 

collages have been 



in subsequent sessions) 

The Lost Paradise: Amanda 
In her early fifties, Amanda was born in Chile and has been living in Montreal for 
the past 25 years. She envisions her life story as divided in two halves of 25 years each. The 
first half- in her view more significant than the second - includes her youthful years in 
Chile. The second part of her life refers to the period of time she has spent as an immigrant 
in Canada. During the workshop, she was carried back in time forcefully by memories of 
"the other half of her life spent in her homeland. One after the other, her images brought to 


surface the idealized landscapes of a "lost paradise" from which she had been expelled 
through exile. 

For Amanda, the notion of identity has to do with one's sense of belonging. The fact 
that, after 25 years of living in Montreal, people still ask her where she comes from, doesn't 
make her feel she belongs. In her home town, people used to talk to each other, she says. 
The winters were soft and this helped; people were out a lot and the street was part of an 
extended social space. Here in Montreal, she feels anonymous; a stranger speaks to her in 
the street only on rare occasions, and when it happens, it makes her content. 

Most of Amanda's friends come from Chile. Twenty years ago, when she arrived to 
Montreal, all her friends were new refugees. In the beginning, the Chilean community used 
to organize various celebrations, gatherings, and political activities, but as time went by, 
people became increasingly busy with their own lives and the sense of solidarity 
progressively diminished. She and her family ended up with few friends. Born in Chile, 
Amanda's first son considers himself a Chilean. However, he prefers to speak English and 
has friends who speak the same language. Her second son was born in Quebec and 
considered himself a national until the day his teacher asked him to talk about "his country" 
in class. Although he initially answered he was a Quebecer and didn't know much about 
Chile, from that moment on, he has developed an interest in his parents' culture. Today, he 
speaks Spanish with an English accent, says his mother with a smile. 

Amanda 's Chronological Narrative 

When Pinochet's government came into power, Amanda was in her twenties. She 
was already married and pregnant with her first child. The coup d'etat threw the Chilean 


people into confusion and suffering, recalls Amanda. She had been banished from the local 
university where she was studying social work. She sought refuge with her child in her 
family of origin, while her husband hastily left the country to avoid persecution, for - as a 
post employee - he was associated with the former government. Amanda didn't have any 
news from him for some time. After a long and painful journey during which he attempted 
in vain to obtain political asylum in various countries, he ended up as a refugee in Canada. 
Two years later, Amanda and her child joined him in Montreal. 

Amanda experiences the two halves of her existence as separate, with no relation 
with one another. She feels that her life stopped the moment in which - against her will - she 
became a refugee. She recalls that for the first four or five years of their stay in Canada, she 
and her husband envisioned their situation as provisional. They furnished their apartment as 
minimally as possible, hoping that they would soon be able to return to their homeland. 
However, when Amanda gave birth to her second son, they gave up their hopes, realizing 
that their situation was not temporary. Today, although she feels somewhat resigned to the 
idea of spending the rest of her life in Montreal, Amanda continues to long for her 
homeland. She still hopes that some day, she and her husband will return to Chile and die by 
the sea. 

As new refugees, the members of Amanda's family had to wait for five years before 
obtaining resident status, which entitles one to work, take language classes, and access 
medical care. During this long waiting period, she took French classes offered on a 
voluntary basis by a priest in his church basement and, when she was pregnant with her 
second child, she had the benefit of free medical assistance offered by a compassionate 


Chilean medical doctor. When Amanda eventually acquired the right to work, she found a 
minimum-wage job in a sewing factory, which she kept for eight years. During this time, she 
completed a social work degree. At the university, she noticed that the students' attitudes 
were very competitive, whereas in Chile students had collaborated towards common goals. 
She still recalls how hurt she felt when she was rejected by a study group under the pretext 
that they "wanted to get a good grade." She also pointed out a major difference between the 
practice of social work in Chile and in Canada: whereas in her country of origin this 
profession has a strong communal orientation, here it is mainly oriented towards the 

Over the years, Amanda's suffering has prompted her to participate in several 
struggles for "good causes," which eventually resulted in the improvement of various 
groups' situations. For instance, because when she first arrived in Canada, refugees did not 
have access to medical care, she has been involved with other Chilean community members 
in lobbying for refugees' rights to medical care, which is now accepted for newcomers. As a 
social worker, she invested her energy in working with other immigrant women. She 
contributed to the foundation of a women's shelter for victims of domestic violence, and she 
worked for this agency for almost two decades. Her work situation changed two years ago, 
when two armed men broke into the building where she was working. Although there was 
no physical violence, Amanda suffered with post traumatic stress and was unable to return to 
the shelter. Since then, she has been looking for work, and says that not having been able to 
find a job is currently affecting her self esteem. 


Amanda 's Imaginal Narrative 
Separation: Favoring Past over Present and Resisting Departure 

Figure 1: Contemplating the past with nostalgia. 

While working on this watercolor, which she titled "Un Regard" ("A Glance"), 
Amanda was seized by nostalgia - a feeling that she knew well, she said, for she has 
experienced it for the last 25 years. In Chile, her family's house was situated on a mountain 
from which she could enjoy a beautiful view of the sea. As a child, she and her friends 
sometimes played truant and ran to the beach to contemplate the waves and the boats in the 
distance. In those "good old days," happiness consisted of the simple enjoyment of the 
everyday life. 

In symbolic terms, the sea is often viewed as a source of life and regeneration, "a 
symbol of the unconscious energies and of the informal powers of the soul" (Chevalier & 
Geerbrant, 1982, p. 381). In Amanda's image, its waters are agitated, suggesting a 
"transitory state between still unformed possibilities and the formal realities, a state of 
ambivalence, uncertainty, doubt and indecision" (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982, p. 623). 
Some fish can be seen at the surface of the water. In many cultures fish are associated with 
the act of birth and cyclical restoration (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

The association between mountains and water often appears in traditional Chinese 
paintings as a representation of the dialectics between impermanence and stability. This 
concept, which symbolizes the opposition between yin and yang, is also exemplified by sun 
and water (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

Figure 1 : "A Glance " 

Amanda was seized by nostalgia - a feeling that she knew well 

she said, for she has experienced it for the last 25 years. 

Figure 2: Untitled 
Once she completed her work, she realized that it 
expressed the contrast between the two halves of her life. 



Figure 3: "Sick Imagination" 

Amanda explains that Figures 3 and 4 are about her "two lives." 

This image alludes to the horror of Pinochef s coming into power. 

Figure 4: "Itinerary from elsewhere to here " 

She recalls how young she was as she arrived in this 

country, with its cold winters, snow, and gloves. 


Figure 5: Untitled 
She placed her parents, herself, and one of her brothers to whom 
she feels close on the blue side, which represented her homeland. 

Figure 6 : Untitled 

"These are memories from Chile. As I was working on this 

collage, 1 really felt 1 was there. 1 absolutely wanted to be there."'"' 



Figure 7: Untitled 

While she was working on this pastel drawing, she imagined that 

she was passing through a door from one world into another. 

Figure 8: "Yellow Leaves" 

Perhaps I wanted to say that everything that matters is 

already past, dead leaves. Maybe 1 wanted to give closure. 



Figure 2: Differentiating between the two halves of her life. 

Amanda painted this picture immediately after she finished Figure 1 . She 
commented that she felt the need to paint something "very lively," or rather she wanted to 
represent "life itself." Once she completed her work, she realized that it expressed the 
contrast between the two halves of her life. 

Radically different from Figure 1, Figure 2 seems to be an attempt to revitalize past 
and present as parts of a whole. It's bold and energetic brushstrokes, and the vividness of its 
colors, contrast with the soft, contemplative atmosphere conveyed by Amanda's first 
picture. Although the red and the blue don't mix together, their coexistence in the same 
container (which looks like a vase) may suggest a beginning attempt to eventually 
incorporate them into a whole. For the moment however, the red and the blue lines appear 
separated and crystallized inside the vase; only the two central lines manage to escape 
through the tight opening, pouring out their fluffy spirals joyously in opposite directions. 
Although they are brought together tentatively, the red and the blue remain separate in the 
container. This image seems to tend towards what Babha (1996) calls "hybrid identity," a 
new and creative "culture in-between" formed at the point of encounter between the original 
and the host cultures. 

In symbolic terms, the bright red embodies the life principle- the ardor of youth and 
the healthy, triumphant Eros (Chevalier & Geerbrandt, 1982). The lively quality of the color 
is reinforced in this picture by the forceful and abundant circular movements. In contrast, the 
blue, a cold color, is "indifferent," suggesting a sense of "tranquil eternity", according to 
Kandinsky (Chevalier & Geerbrandt, 1982). After having been vigorously invested in the 


application of the red paint, Amanda's brushstrokes lost some of the initial energy as they 

were applied on the opposite side of the image. 

Initiation: Revisiting the Past and Unwillingly Saying Goodbye to It 

Figures 3 and 4: Reviewing separately each half of her life story. 

Like the red and the blue sides of Figure 2, both collages convey a sense of vitality, 
although Amanda appears to be more invested in representing her life in Chile than her life 
in Quebec. In addition to magazine photographs, Amanda added words to comment on the 
situations she wanted to represent. She explains that these two collages are about her "two 
lives." The first one, entitled "L'imaginaire malade" ("Sick imagination"), alludes to the 
horror of Pinochet's coming into power. Amanda had been accused of subversive action 
against the new government ("Au banc des accuses") and banished from the university. 
Although she had to hide, she witnessed what was happening and felt outraged. Nonetheless, 
the dark overtone of her last years in Chile is compensated in her memory by happy 
recollections of earlier times. Playing on the beach as a child, the sea with its boats and fish, 
her favorite poetry, the narrow streets of her hometown full of people talking to each other, 
and the presence of her family, were all sources of daily joy. 

Entitled "Parcours d'ici et d'ailleurs" ("Itinerary from Elsewhere to Here"), the 
second collage represents the second half of Amanda's life story. She recalls how young she 
was when she arrived in this country, with its cold winters, snow, and gloves. She claims 
that "here," she has turned into a "multitasking woman." She managed to raise her sons, 
who are now two happy young men, while working and studying at the same time. Since she 
considers that this country is perhaps her "last refuge," she has decorated her home with 
colorful objects that recall her Latin American origins. 


Image 5: Reviving her family memories. 

In the beginning of the session during which she started this collage, Amanda shared 
with the group a song by Violeta Parra, an internationally-acclaimed Chilean song writer. 
This song, entitled "Gracias a la Vida" ("Thanks to Life"), echoes Amanda's credo that joy 
and suffering are experienced and shared by all human beings, and that both constitute the 
motor of creativity. Since most women in the group already knew the song and felt inspired 
by it, they suggested they should start artwork with this song as a musical background. 
Translated from Spanish, the song proclaims: 

Thanks life for having given me so much 

For having given me the laughter and the tears 

For having enabled me to distinguish the happiness from grief 

These are the things that matter to my song, 

A song similar to yours, 

Similar to everybody else 's song. 

For her collage, Amanda used photocopies of original photographs featuring her 
parents at their wedding and Amanda's siblings. They are all depicted as emerging from a 
sea plant, signifying the importance of the sea in Amanda's life, as she grew up close to the 
shore. Around her family, she placed symbolic objects to characterize her mother. The left 
half of the image is painted in red, and the right half in blue. However, she was not aware 
that the positions of red and the blue in this image were similar to those in Figure 2. When 
she finished her collage, Amanda realized that she and her brother (the one living in the 
United States and to whom she feels closer), are positioned on the blue side with their two 
parents, while the ones who stayed in Chile are on the red side. 


The red and the blue, representing the two halves of Amanda's life in Figure 2, are 
used again unintentionally in this collage, and placed in a similar position. However, in 
contrast to Figure 2, in which they were resolutely separated, the colors begin to 
interpenetrate. Whereas the blue was applied with less energy in Figure 2 than the red, in 
Figure 5 the blue color covers a larger surface of the paper than the red. Amanda has 
attempted to integrate red into blue in the areas that represent the mother and the map of the 
two Americas. Both the map and the wedding may be viewed as attempts to integrate 
polarities and, perhaps, to incorporate maternal objects in a world that until now she has 
perceived as cold and anonymous. However, Amanda did not attempt to integrate blue into 
the red color. 

Figure 6: Mixing colors and waving "good bye. " 

Amanda patiently incorporated a "National Geographic" drawing and a post card 
she once received into a new whole representing her home town. Under a leafy tree evoking 
spring or early summer, she placed a photograph of herself performing the Chilean national 
dance, La Cueca, when she was 15-years-old. During the process, she reported experiencing 
a mixture of joy and nostalgia. She said she was carried away by her memories to the point 
of forgetting where she was; it felt as if she was taken on a round trip for which she didn't 
have to pay a plane ticket. 

In contrast to Figure 5, in which blue and red were the only colors, in Figure 6, 
Amanda started to incorporate other colors, such as grey, green, and violet. In contrast to the 
previous collage - in which blue and red covered the two halves of the paper and were 
separated of each other - in this one, the blue, which she associates with her homeland, is 
placed in the center of the image. Amanda's photograph is surrounded by images of her 


hometown, to which she appears to wave goodbye with her handkerchief. The left side, 
towards which Amanda's body is completely turned, is more complete than the right side, to 
which she incorporates only one fragment of her past. 
Return: Hesitating on the Threshold 

Figure 7: Facing a dilemma: crossing the threshold, or getting stuck in the past. 

Amanda commented that while she was working on this pastel drawing, she 
imagined that she was passing through a door from one world into another. As in the 
previous image, several colors are mixed together, and the figure that represents Amanda 
occupies the center of the drawing. The result is dull, and even the sun is covered by a layer 
of grey. Only a yellow oval, suggesting the form of an egg, seems to have preserved its 
brilliance. The color gold, as well as the yellow of the leaves, announces the arrival of old 
age in many cultures; in this sense it can become a substitute to black (Chevalier & 
Geerbrant, 1982). Some symbols appearing in the previous images - the mountains and the 
sea - can be viewed as emblems of her hometown. The tree, which was central in Figure 6, 
recurs again here, but this time it has been displaced to the left, and appears to take on the 
colors of the fall. 

Passage through a door often symbolizes the transition between two worlds or states, 
and evokes a rite of passage (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). The red in the previous pictures 
has now become the color of Amanda's sweater, while the blue fills the whole picture. The 
figure standing on the threshold remains ambiguous. She seems to represent a child, rather 
than an adult woman, and the image evokes the question of whether Amanda is really 
passing over the threshold, or isolating herself in the closed space of her childhood 


Figure 8: Acknowledging reality. 

This collage entitled "Hojarasca" ("Yellow Leaves"), which Amanda created as the 
cover of her artist's book, represents her conclusion with regard to her art therapeutic 
process. On a red background, she has glued a few red maple leaves, which, according to her 
comments, symbolize both Canada and the autumn of her life. Some ethnic motifs recall her 
Chilean origins. The red background of Amanda's final image recalls her use of this color as 
a representative of the past. Painfully and almost against her will, she eventually 
incorporated the symbols of her two part cultures into a new whole that takes into account 
her new awareness of reality. Far from being completed, her process represents perhaps a 
step towards Bhaba's (1996) definition of a culture in-between, pregnant with meaning and 
new possibilities. 

Two Years Later. . . 

As she was reconnecting with her artwork, Amanda felt overwhelmed with sadness; 
she felt that, on a deep level, the recollections evoked by her images were still highly 
significant for her. She explained that she still experienced intense nostalgic feelings in 
relation to her homeland, coupled with a growing sense of uneasiness in relation to her life 
in her host country, where she never felt fully welcome. 

After the end of the art therapy workshop, Amanda continued her search for a job, 
but had not been able to find one. She believed that this reality was due to her being 
indemnified for a previous work-related trauma; according to her, potential new employers 
viewed her with an indelible stigma, which prevented her from being hired. When, after a 
long search, she eventually found a position in a social work agency, and was about to be 


hired, her intended employer rejected her candidacy after finding out that she had required a 
monetary compensation for her work accident. 

Amanda continued the interview by talking about her two sons' identity-issues. 
Amanda's youngest son was born in Quebec; although he did not identify with his parents' 
culture and used to view himself as a national, with time, as people kept asking him where 
he came from, he started to experience a growing uneasiness in asserting his national 
identity. He continued to answer that he was born "here," but he started feeling like an 
impostor, commented Amanda. In contrast, Amanda's oldest son was born in Chile, but 
perceived himself as a "citizen of the world." 
Reviewing the Images 
Figure 1. 

"I still look back, towards the past. I work here, I live here, but I still cast the same 
glance over the past," said Amanda with a sad expression on her face, as she was looking at 
the first image. 
Figure 2. 

Amanda' interpretation of Figure 2 was completely different from the one she shared 
with the group during the art therapy workshop. Her comments brought into light a deep 
cleavage between "here" and "there," which she eventually came to identify with "good," 
and "bad." 

At the beginning of the workshop, I was going through difficult moments in my life. I 
was experiencing an incredible rage in relation to my work accident. Although it 
happened in 2000, I was still involved with fighting for my rights on a daily basis, 
and I was experiencing negative feelings. I asked for therapy and a monetary 


compensation, but it took a long time before they answered my demand; I eventually 
succeeded, but I had to bring them to court. 

When 1 painted this image, I wanted to get rid of my anger, and let in some 
more positive feelings. The color blue represents my positive, gentle side, and all the 
good things inside me; blue also represents my country, my culture, everything that 
is good. Red represents the negative aspects: rejection, exile, isolation, all the 
negative things that got into me. 

Amanda went on explaining that she attempted to use painting as a kind of healing 
ritual, which she continued to use at home after the session. 

When I painted this image, the color blue was meant to go inside me, and I wanted 
the red to get out of me. This painting represents my two sides. I wanted to evacuate 
red, and allow blue to get in. Above all, blue represents the sea, with its waves 
breaking against the shore. There is a movement, a process of letting one color in, 
and the other color out. When I painted this image, I was not ready to share my 
emotions with the group, for they were too intense. I also remember that you 
suggested that we should work on our first two images with the left hand. 

This painting represents my guts, my inner world. I did not want to represent 
a vase full of flowers, but me, my blood system. This painting represents my desire to 
be filled with positive things, and let go of the negative ones. During the workshop, I 
probably invented a different story because I was not able to explain all these things 
to the group. After the session, I bought a few small canvases, on which I continued 
to paint at home; I felt the need to paint. I painted a few pictures similar to this one. 


Figures 3 and 4. 

Amanda described these images as two synthetic representations of her whole life 
story. As she revised the fragments of her narrative, she interpreted positively her mother's 
absence during her childhood years. She mentioned that this particular lack forced her to 
develop her autonomy and a sense of freedom, qualities that proved to be helpful later on, 
when she experienced various difficulties in her life. 

These images are quite representative of my life. All my past holds in a few images: 
the birth of my first son, the repression in Chile. We had to hide. I was pregnant 
during all these changes. I felt naked, unprotected, taken by surprise. All these 
memories about the seashore you can see here (Figure3); they sustained me. My 
childhood and my 'joie de vivre ' helped me as I was experiencing all these 
difficulties. I didn 't have a very affectionate mother, but I had a large family, and a 
few significant others. I also had the freedom to move around. 

Later in my life, my detachment from my family helped me to go through 
tremendous hardship. My mother was a schizophrenic, I was the only girl, and I had 
five younger brothers for which I played a maternal role. Although no one knew how 
to treat my mother's illness, she was happy in her own inner world. She was 
sometimes doing strange things, like, for example, preparing her valise and 
disappearing for a month. I was 10-years-old when my father died; my grandparents 
decided that we would all go to different boarding schools. It was difficult, because I 
had to separate from my family. Later, I lived with my great grandmother for a 
while, but she died when I was 16-years-old, and then I moved to my great aunt's 


house. My mother remarried, she moved into another city, and we have hardly seen 
her ever since. 
Figure 5. 

As she was explaining how she made her collage, Amanda emphasized her wish of 
breaking though the emotional blockage that limited her life and her need to relax during the 
creative process. 

/ really felt like I was stuck in my life, and I told myself that here I must let go 
without judging what I was doing. I envisioned the workshop as a privileged moment 
that I offered to myself. There were some real artists in the group, and it would not 
have been too hard to convince myself that I was no good; but I chose to relax 
instead, for I was already suffering from being blocked in my daily life. . . 
Amanda noticed that she placed her parents, herself, and one of her brothers to whom 
she feels close on the blue side of Figure 5, which represented her homeland. She integrated 
two of her other brothers who live in Chile into the red side of her collage. She felt that the 
final result was giving the impression that the image was about to blow up. 

Amanda explained that, since her parents were not alive anymore, she placed a 
sleeping woman over her father's head in guise of an angel, because he viewed his wife as 
"the woman of his dreams." According to Amanda, her mother was a "spoiled" woman who 
enjoyed sleeping and being served her breakfast in bed, and who envisioned her children as 
part of her background, rather than central to her preoccupations. 

Amanda concluded her description by associating the records she incorporated into 
her collage to the Chilean music she was often listening to, and the ironing machines to "the 
boats that will bring me back to Chile." 


Figure 6. 

Reviewing this image carried Amanda back to the unforgettable universe of her 
youth, from which she drew a sense of pride. 

/ really love this image; these are memories from Chile, memories of having lived 
there. As I was working on this collage, I really felt I was there. I absolutely wanted 
to be there. 

In this picture, I was part of a folklore group; I was holding a white 
handkerchief as I was dancing "La Cueca" (the Chilean national dance). / used to be 
a young girl who enjoyed being involved with various groups, and participated in 
many activities. I used to be positive. 

Here is Valparaiso with its seventeen elevators because there are parts of the 
city which are not accessible by bus. The elevators are old, but they are still in good 
shape. Today, Valparaiso is considered a "World Patrimony"; the city had greatly 
deteriorated during the dictatorship and is now being renovated. I'm so proud I was 
born there! This is my city, my beach, and my youth; they are all here, in my collage. 
After having been taken away by her recollections, and having experienced the pride 
of coming from Valparaiso, Amanda started to feel nostalgic again. Her joy was now 
followed by sadness, for she was unwillingly living "here," instead of "there." 

The tree represents my roots; although I lived more here than there, my roots are in 
my homeland. I symbolically 'planted' this tree over there, for I wanted it to 
represent me; painting it there, rather than here, was very significant for me. Now, I 
understand why I was sticking to the trunk, because it represents Me. It is incredible 
how one can let go, flowing with one 's memories, with the unconscious. Yes, I am 


this tree! I am here, but, as I already said in the beginning, my spirit is still over 
there. I am still glancing towards my past. My eyes look towards my homeland. My 
eyes still have the same glance. I am there. 
Figure 7. 

Amanda knew intuitively that she could feel better if she got to somehow reconcile 
"here" and "there." However, she seemed unable to achieve such a task. Although in Figure 
7 she made attempts to bring the landscapes representing the two countries into the same 
image, her resistance proved to be stronger than her will to integrate the opposites. 
Consequently, the two sides remained separated. Amanda explained that she had the 
intention to draw herself stepping from one world into the other, through the door that 
separated them. But she eventually felt the need to "enclose" herself into a "cocoon" full of 
light and warmth, which fulfilled the role of protecting her against her own feelings. 
However, it also limited her movements. 

/ remember that while I was drawing this image, I wished I would be in a cocoon full 
of light, like this one. I wanted to feel protected. There is a tree in this image too, but 
I am not this tree. There is also a sea, and there are also mountains. But the 
landscape is covered by some kind of darkness, or a shadow. Although I would like 
to be part of this landscape, I'm not there. Only my spirit is there, and this is why I 
drew a cocoon full of light. There is a dark background, with a dark cloud over it 
that prevents me from reading the image. I don 't know why, but I cannot read it well. 
The only thing I remember is the cocoon. I wanted to protect myself in this space full 
of light. 


There are two countries, two sides, and I'm in the middle. For me, it has 
always been that way. The tree is not the same as the one in the previous image, I 
think. This is a tree from here, a winter-tree, naked, without leaves; it represents 
coldness. There is also a mountain in the image, but it does not continue on the other 
side. I drew a cloud over it, as if I told myself that 'this is not worth it, we are going 
to efface all this. ' 
Amanda explained that she probably felt the need to enclose herself in the cocoon 

because the art therapeutic process was making her suffer; she ended up feeling 

overwhelmed by it, and wanting to give closure to it. 

/ imagined myself in a cocoon because I wanted to feel protected, far from all these 
questions. Maybe we pushed ourselves too much in wanting to define what we have 
lived here and there. I wanted to protect myself because all this was hurting me. The 
Chilean side of the drawing is sunny and, as strange as this may be, although I don 't 
really know how to draw, I drew my arm pointing towards Chile. It was unconscious. 
It was enough, it was too much. I wanted closure. 
After reviewing her images, Amanda concluded that she was not able to find 

anything that could compensate for the loss of her homeland. "Of course, here there are 

many material things, but they failed to fulfill my soul's needs." 
Figure 8. 
According to Amanda, the title of this collage came from Garcia Marquez's 

Hojarasca, a book that touched her on a deep level. 

Upon reflection, I eventually found a title, 'Hojarasca ', which means falling leaves. ' 
There is a novel with this title by Garcia Marquez, the Colombian writer; the title 


refers to the main character's recollections about his past. The main character is in 
fact dead, but he reflects on what he sees, and on what he remembers of his life. The 
book is a reflection about past and memory, about what remains of us, and about the 
meaning of life. It is the past that hurts the most.... Perliaps I wanted to say that 
everything that matters is already past, dead leaves. Maybe I wanted to give closure. 
Talking about some of her Chilean friends who decided to let go of their nostalgia, 
and envision a new life in their host country, Amanda commented: "This was making me 
angry. I was wondering how it was possible to deny one's country, and roots." Today, 
although she did not subscribe to it, she understood better this attitude. Nonetheless, for 
herself, she could not envision anything else, but a return to her roots. 

Here, I am in stand-by. I know I don 't want to spend my elderly years here. I imagine 
myself there for my sixtieth birthday. 60 is the top! I will say 'goodbye' to Canada, 
but perhaps I will feel torn again, for my children live here. Tliis is me! I am content 
for a few moments and when this happens, I thank life for what it gave me. But I am 
certain that I will be much happier there. 

In relation to her participation to the workshop, Amanda stated that it helped her to 
"exorcise" the aspects of her life that were hurting her the most, "to get out my frustrations 
and say, here they are. Doing that made me progress a bit, because I became more aware." 
According to Amanda, although the creative process did not change her life completely, it 
nonetheless helped her to "get out the evil," and become more sensitive to her feelings. In 
her view, it would have taken longer than 8 weeks to insure a greater change, since a longer 
duration would have also touched other important aspects of her life. 


A Culture "In-Between": Delia 

When the workshop started, Delia was just arriving from a four months stay in her 
country of origin and was finding it difficult to be back in Montreal. Born in Uruguay, Delia 
is a woman in her early thirties who possesses a remarkable capacity for describing both her 
inner and outer realities through powerful metaphors. There is a sense of sadness about her, 
which she defines as "nostalgia" - a tearing between the longings of her heart and the needs 
of her intellect. Whereas she views her heart as belonging to her homeland, she sees her 
intellect as belonging to her host country. She explains that she uses humor to express her 
dramatic side. For her, "laughing at herself and her situation" is also a strategy for fighting 

Delia describes Uruguay as a country founded by immigrants. She explains that this 
is why the "exile's nostalgia" became with time an "essence" of people's temperament, 
which is transmitted from generation to generation. According to Delia, the tango is the 
musical genre that best reflects this feature of her people's identity. She says she deeply 
identifies with the dramatic aspects of this music, especially in its ability to express 
suffering. In terms of identity, she sees herself as belonging to both cultures, which she 
describes as the two halves of her body. In her view, the upper part represents the 
intellectual stimulation, the financial security, and the concreteness of the material life 
offered by Canada. The lower part, which is larger than the upper part, begins with the heart, 
and represents the warm and vibrant universe of feelings, emotions, and passions that 
characterizes Uruguay. 


Delia 's Chronological Narrative 
First Separation 

Delia's parents are children of immigrants - of Jewish origins on her mother's side 
and British on her father's. When Delia was 1 1 -years-old, her parents decided to become 
immigrants themselves, hoping to find a better life in Canada. 
First Initiation 

Delia understood how traumatic her departure from home had been when she 
realized that she could barely remember anything about her life before immigrating to 
Canada. During recent years, her old friends from Uruguay have attempted to help her 
recover the missing pieces of her life story by sharing their own recollections of her as a 
child. Still today, Delia recalls her mixed feelings about the new context to which she had to 
adapt upon her arrival in Montreal. When she started school and did not speak French, Delia 
had to confront her "difference" and other students' reactions to it. On one occasion, she 
experienced violence from one of her classmates, an event that marked her. However, she 
enjoyed participating in most school activities and it was not long before she started 
speaking French and becoming actively involved in the student community. Despite her 
capacity for adapting, she kept longing for her childhood's familiar environment, and for the 
loved ones she had to leave behind, especially her grandparents. Delia was very attached to 
them, and realized how much she loved them only after she left Uruguay. 
First Return 

After spending 10 years in Quebec, Delia and her family eventually retuned to 
Uruguay when one of her grandparents became ill. She stayed in her country of origin for 
another 10 years and went to the local university, where she met her husband-to-be. After 


she married, she lived with her spouse in a house passed on by her parents. Delia evokes 

with great pleasure their happy life in that house, which was always open to their numerous 


Second Separation 

2 years ago, at the age of 3 1 , Delia returned to Canada; this time, she was 
accompanied by her husband. Her family remained in Monetvideo, where they opened a 
business. As far as Delia is concerned, her decision to move back to her country of adoption 
was motivated by the difficulty of finding jobs, in both her and her husband's areas of 
specialization. Delia's husband never felt particularly attached to Uruguay, a country in 
which he perceived himself as an immigrant. Of indigenous origins, he had lived in a 
community at the border between Uruguay and Brazil, and identified himself as Brazilian. 
Thus, he did not mind immigrating again, and felt eager to commence his life in Montreal. 
Second Initiation 

Delia's second immigration episode was experienced as somewhat less difficult than 
the first one. She says that by now she has good friends with whom she shares a "heart 
relationship." In addition, she was able to find work. Despite this rather positive situation, 
she points out that she still feels that her "real home" is in Uruguay. She would rather live 
there, she says, but her husband insists on staying here. Since she feels that for the moment 
she has no choice, she tries to envision her life in relation to this country; she would thus 
like to begin her own family, with children, a house, and "a piece of land that is mine." She 
realizes that she needs to have a good profession in order to do so, yet she is not too eager to 
go back to school because she has already spent so much of her life studying. Moreover, "in 
her heart" she considers herself an artist - a theater actress. After reflecting on her actual 


situation, Delia concluded that "in the depth of (her) heart" she would like to find a concrete 
way to go back and forth between the two cultures to which she belongs, a way of living 
"between here and there." She envisions the possibility of eventually setting up a non-profit 
organization which would allow her to travel regularly between the two countries. 

Delia 's Imaginal Narrative 
Separation: Home is where the Heart Is 

Figure 1: Feeling upside-down and going backwards. 

After her 4-month-stay Uruguay, Delia felt the sadness of leaving her homeland and 
family once again. With regard to Figure 1, entitled "Al borde" ("On Board"), she said she 
felt puzzled, but could not make any additional comments. Only at the end of the workshop, 
when the group members were revising their images, did it feel safe for her to experience the 
sadness conveyed by her drawing. She then associated her image to the work of a 
Uruguayan artist, Torres Garcia, who painted a reversed map of the two Americas. In doing 
so, the painter intended to make an ideological statement about how Latin America was 
viewed from the North American perspective. 

Was Delia looking at Canada from a Latin American perspective? In this intriguing 
drawing, the movement of each oar appears to undo the action of the other. One cannot say 
whether the boat goes forward or backward; in fact, its movement seems to have stopped in 
the sky. Despite the reversed position of the boat, in Delia's image the human figure appears 
to be comfortably seated, even though, as Chevalier & Geerbrant (1982) wrote, crossing the 
waters of one's life is a perilous venture. Bachelard views the boat as a symbol of both 
traveling and of the "rediscovered cradle," that evokes a sense of security (Chevalier & 
Geerbrant, 1982). Was Delia about to lose again her "rediscovered cradle?" 


„W^-v:v r }- 



Figure 1: "On Board" 

Delia associated her image to the work of a Uruguayan artist, 

Torres Garcia, who painted the reversed map of the two Americas. 

Figure 2: Untitled 

"We are a group of people who relate to each other here, in this 

specific place, but we are also related to other people in the world.' 


Figure 3 : Untitled 

Assembling these fragments motivated Delia to reflect on 

'the meaning of life" seen as "a journey between dream and reality.' 


Figure 4: Untitled 

Initially, this collage was divided into two parts, the left 

side representing Canada, and the right side, Uruguay. 


Figure 5: Untitled 

Her attempt to bringing together the two facets of her personality 

resulted in a "tragicomic ensemble,'"' "humorous and dramatic at once.' 


Figure 6: Untitled 

For me, this image evoked the ancient figureheads 

placed under the bow of the sailing boats. 


Figure 7: Untitled 

According to Delia, this drawing represents her inner world 

in the form of a seed, which will eventually grow into a plant. 


Figure 8: Untitled 

All the colors in Delia's previous images converge towards a central point, 

the foot, which she associated with her desire to develop new roots. 



Initiation: Working Through Nostalgia 

Figure 2: Attempting to bridge "here " and "there. " 

In the beginning of the second session, Delia brought a kit of matte, her country's 
national beverage. She offered a sip of this herbal tea to each woman in the group. She 
explained that in Uruguay and Argentina, the matte is a symbol of communal sharing; 
according to the custom, everybody takes turns sipping it through the same metal straw from 
one and the same cup. 

This concrete way of relating to other women in the group through the tea ceremony 
was followed by an image that attempts to conciliate the two worlds to which Delia belongs. 
This image reflects her consciousness of how we are related to other people in the world: 
"We are a group of people who relate to each other here, in this specific place, but we are 
also related to other people in the world, we communicate with them in different ways." 
According to Delia, her painting represents traces of feet that are symbols of roots and 
connections. She commented that she currently felt connected to her two worlds and that she 
wanted to experience this sense of connection as intensely as possible. She explained that 
she felt the need to dive into her painting experience as completely as possible, in a very 
physical way. In addition to the brushes, she used her hands and fingers. Compared to her 
previous image, the movements and colors of this painting are vigorous and lively. 

Delia had identified her desire to create a bridge between her two part-cultures 
during the initial interview. She compared them with the two parts of her body representing 
the opposite interests of her heart and intellect. From this former perspective, nostalgia is 
seen by Delia as a tearing between the opposites. In her most recent painting, she seems to 


initiate a process of integrating the two opposite cultures by integrating heart and intellect - 
a process which is mediated by the body. 

Figure 3: Feeling uprooted and dreaming about "there. " 

Like the boat in Figure 1, the fragments of Delia's life seem to float freely across the 
sky in Figure 3. The dreamlike atmosphere is reinforced by the presence of the birds. 
Bearing red fruits, the branches of a tree link together the fragments of Delia's life. The 
roots of the tree are somewhere outside the picture. The process of assembling these 
fragments motivated Delia to reflect on "the meaning of life" seen as "a journey between 
dream and reality," something about "eternity and slowness." There is a "magic about life." 
One has to "strive for one's life" - and this requires courage. 

According to Delia, the pieces she assembled in her collage represented glimpses 
into her various realities: recollections of her homeland, memories from her childhood, an 
inventory of her multiple interests. She linked her tendency to identify with different 
animals to her mother's love for dogs. She also mentioned the elderly people who socialized 
in the streets of Montevideo, commenting that they were always present in the daily life of 
every family and of society at large. "They are alive, live with us and tell us stories." She 
expressed her sadness that here, they are absent from both the streets and her life. In the 
right corner of her collage, "a walrus laughing at herself represents Delia's use of humor as 
a means of thwarting the dramas of existence, such as the suffering of "feeling uprooted." 

Figure 4: Integrating "here " and "there. " 

Initially, this collage was divided into two parts, the left side representing Canada, 
and the right side, Uruguay. Delia's work consisted in two stages: first, she sorted out the 


elements that, according to her, characterized here and there, and then, she incorporated all 
of them into a new whole. 

At first, Delia distributed the two halves of a photograph representing a tree 
equitably between the two countries. The second step consisted of painting "a piece of land 
of my own" on each side, an action meant to express her desire to feel rooted again. Around 
a recent picture of her friends, which she glued on the "Uruguayan side," she painted a 
representation of the house she had inherited from her parents. She then proceeded towards 
the "Canadian side". Under a photograph taken while she was playing one of her favorite 
roles, Shakespeare's "Midsummer's Night Dream", she painted a laughing donkey, one of 
the play's characters. She commented that this part of her collage reconnected her with the 
desire to return to her art. 

In contrast to the two faded black and white photographs, the picture of Delia's 
couple is striking in terms of intense color and clarity. Viewed by Delia as a representation 
of the family she wanted to create in-between the two cultures, this central triangle links the 
two opposite sides of the collage. Above the photograph, a small statue generates "a life 
giving breath," which envelops and unifies all the other elements with its vivid colors. Delia 
envisioned it as a metaphor that describes her couple's capacity to generate an autonomous 
universe in the form of a new family. The overall colors of the collage are vivid and the final 
result conveys a sense of joy and balance. 

Figure 5: Using humor in working through nostalgia. 

Delia explained that her strategy for fighting nostalgia consists of "laughing at 
herself and at her situation"; she needed humor in order to balance her "dramatic side." As 
she commented on her image, she described herself as a "sad clown" longing for the "lost 


paradise" symbolized in her collage by the women on the beach. Her attempt to bring 
together the two facets of her personality resulted in a "tragic-comic ensemble," "humorous 
and dramatic at once." 

Delia's image appears to allude to the fragility of the immigrant's condition. It 
illustrates with humor the perilous venture that characterizes the Hero's initiation: the 
protagonist's life is in danger and there is an equal possibility that he or she will either 
succeed or fail. "Hanging by a thread," a squirrel holds a boat full of immigrants. They left 
their country with the hope of reaching a huge, red, tasteful fruit, but "they found the clothes 
line empty." Thus they must face their disillusion, trading the blue sea and sunny beaches of 
their homeland for a grey stretch of cold water. 

The black and white photograph recalls an archival photograph featuring the 
immigrants' arrival in some port of their host country. The sense of nostalgia that would 
normally be conveyed by such a photograph is diverted through the humorous quality of the 
collage. Delia explained that she sought a way to thwart her sadness through humor. She 
pointed to the humorous role of animals in her images as symbols of her own capacity to 
laugh at herself. Like the walrus in Figure 3, and the donkey in Figure 4, in this collage the 
squirrel balances sadness and longing with humor. When laughter becomes part of one's 
life, commented Delia, its colors become enlivened. 

Figures 6, and 7: Becoming pregnant with new life. 

Delia created Figures 6 and 7 following a group visualization led by the leader. 
Participants were invited to review their creative journey since the beginning of the 
workshop and identify the main themes that emerged as a result of their processes. 


Figure 6 represents a woman bearing the seed of a new life in her womb. The seed 
has the form of a star, and the woman looks upwards to the starry sky. For me, this image 
evoked the ancient figureheads placed under the bow of the sailing boats. The woman's 
belly seems to merge with the water, which is seen in most cultures as the source of life and 
center of regeneration (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). According to Delia, the woman is not 
only pregnant with a new baby, but also with dreams of growth and self-realization. The 
sky, the earth, and the water which are present in this picture are her natural medium. The 
description of the Tarot card called "The Star," which presents a similarity to Delia's 
drawing, refers to an in-between state in which things are neither what they were nor what 
they will become (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

According to Delia, Figure 7 represents her inner world in the form of a seed, which 
will eventually grow into a plant. As she was looking at her pastel drawing from a different 
angle, Delia said, she saw a hilarious profile that "made her dream." She commented that 
she liked the "hidden aspect" of the drawing, which, in her view, was about "comedy, 
derision, and laughing at oneself." She added that she was not afraid of derision and ridicule, 
and pointed out that all her drawings had a quality of reverie. However, in contrast to Figure 
6, she felt that Figure 7 had an assertive quality and the colors were more frank. 

Like Figure 7, this drawing recalls the idea of the womb, or a fertile piece of land, 
inside which a moon-crescent-seed has been sown. Outside, the bright yellow evokes a sense 
of sunlight. The presence of both the moon and the sun suggest the presence of polarities 
acting together towards a common goal. The new plant engendered by their union recalls the 
symbol of the archetypal child, viewed by Jung as a representation of wholeness. 


Return: Accepting Reality and Bridging "Here" and "There" 

Final revision. 

The musical background of Delia's final revision consists of an old tango that she 
used to enjoy with her family. She commented that every time she listened to this music she 
was tremendously moved by it; this is the reason why she had never shared it with anybody 
before. She said that she identified with the sense of suffering and nostalgia conveyed by 
this musical genre, which was created by immigrants. 

As she contemplated the series of her pictures on the wall, Delia realized that her 
creative process had helped her in developing a certain degree of acceptance of her actual 
reality. With distance, she said, she found that her life here was more serene than the one she 
lived in Uruguay. Her participation in the group and the possibility of witnessing other 
women's artistic processes has eventually enabled her to bring together the two sides of her 
personality: nostalgia and humor. She remarked that the medium of collage was particularly 
helpful because it allowed her to introduce animals as symbols of humor, and eventually 
helped her to integrate her sense of drama with her joyful nature. She also noticed that every 
time she resorted to humor, her perception of life suddenly changed, appearing to her as 
more colorful and worth living. She also pointed out that, as the workshop progressed, her 
colors became livelier and more assertive. Delia ended her final revision with the following 
reflection: "As immigrants, we create by taking of each culture what suits us. We create and 
re-create ourselves continuously." 

Figure 8: Creating a "culture-in-between. " 

This image stands as the conclusion of Delia's creative journey. All the colors in her 
previous images converge towards a central point, the foot, which Delia associated with her 


desire to develop new roots. In many cultural traditions, write Chevalier and Geerbrant 
(1982), imprinting one's foot on the earth means "I'm here to stay" rather than "I have been 

Two Years Later... 
A few weeks before the second interview, Delia and her husband returned from an 
eight-month-trip Uruguay. During their stay, Delia's husband has been hospitalized on a 
psychiatric ward following a psychotic episode, and had been diagnosed with bi-polar 

Delia recounted that during his psychotic episode, her husband ran away from the 
hospital with the intention of reaching his native village at the Brazilian border. As he was 
racing down a railroad followed by Delia, who was trying to stop him, a train approached 
with great speed. At the moment the train was about to run over them, Delia pushed her 
husband onto the side of the railroad, thus saving his life and hers. According to Delia, this 
near-death experience made her more aware of the fragility of life, and modified radically 
her way of envisioning it. 

/ don 't want to dream of the future anymore, because life is precarious. We don 't 
know when we may get sick, or even die.... When my husband had to be hospitalized, 
my perception of life changed. ' I am more aware of the human fragility, the brain, 
and the emotions. For me, there is 'before ' and 'after'. Now I feel more grounded, 
and I pay more attention to my physical and emotional discomforts. One should not 
neglect oneself, for he or she may pay for this neglect dearly. 
Following the threatening events that occurred during her trip to Uruguay, Delia 
decided to return definitively to her homeland. As she was reviewing the images she created 


two years earlier, she recalled her suffering of being torn between "here" and "there". With a 
distance, she felt that her dream of living six months in each country was unrealistic, and 
stated that, "for logical and emotional reasons," she needed to "go home." Delia recounted 
that, when they found out about her husbands' illness, most of her friends from "here" 
distanced themselves from her. Now she felt isolated and sad; deprived of moral support, 
she longed for home, family, and friends. Delia's actual life situation forced her to redefine 
her priorities, and reflect on the meaning of life, suffering, and happiness. 

/ must sacrifice my financial security for the sake of emotional stability, for a 
tranquility of mind; I don 't talk about happiness, because happiness is relative. 
Being secure financially is more of a dream than a reality, for today, we can be 
secure nowhere in the world. Like here, in Uruguay we have problems, difficulties, 
and sorrows. I don 't necessarily think that I will have a better life there, but I will 
have the emotional resources I don 't have here. There, we have our family. We will 
also need their help if we want to have a child. We continue to have this dream, like 
many other couples. I just cannot keep on living like this, in isolation; for me, it is an 
extraordinary effort. It is a real miracle that I did not become depressed, that I can 
still afford working, and having projects. Before, I was dreaming of traveling, and 
many other things. Today, I look for peace of mind. It is not the economical aspect 
that counts anymore, but peace, on a daily basis. This is what has changed for me. 
Delia shared her intention to return to Uruguay within a few months. During their 
last trip, both she and her husband found teaching positions in their domains of 
specialization. They also bought an apartment. Delia pointed out with a smile that, two years 
earlier, she was dreaming of acquiring "a piece of land" in each country, whilst today, she 


was content with having her home in Montevideo. She now felt that buying her own place 
contributed to reviving her sense of belonging in relation to her homeland. 

/ eventually bought my 'piece of land' there. My husband wanted us to have our own 
house here; instead, we have one there. After I bought it, it became very important 
for me. Now I think of this apartment, and it inspires me. It is not the house I 
inherited from my parents, but the one I chose. 

In an attempt to make sense of both her decision, and her life experience as a whole, 
Delia made some general reflections about being an immigrant: 

When you immigrate, you first need to fulfill your basic needs, such as work, food, 
and shelter. The other needs - social involvement, self-actualization, and spiritual 
needs - you mayfulfdl them later; it takes time before you can take care of them, if 
you ever get there. There are immigrants who get stuck forever at the most basic 
level, that is, house, work, and... that's it. They notice it, and they feel uneasy about 
their situation. 

She then commented that both her basic needs and her ideals changed as a result of 
having been confronted with last year's threatening events. She concluded that, although she 
felt satisfied with her life here, she needed the emotional stability offered by her family and 
friends in her homeland. 

My father lives 6 months here, and 6 months there. This way of living is judged by 
many people in the Uruguayan community, because it represents a basic need and an 
ideal for many immigrants. Perhaps it represents everybody' s dream, but there are 
people who give themselves permission to fulfill it only after they retire. If you do it 
before, they tell you to make up your mind. . . 


Because my reality has changed, I don 't have this ideal anymore; my ideal is 
to find stability. As far as I'm concerned, I know tfiat I'll never be able to find 
stability here. It might be different for my husband, but I know that he wouldn 't be 
able to make it; because of his illness, he needs to live with somebody. In order to 
help him, and our relationship,, I need to feel good. I know that I will never feel good 

Here, I have friends and an interesting job that invigorates me. I enjoy 
working with children. I also teach theater courses on Saturdays - 1 started this in 
continuation to my profession in the domain of theater - and I have other projects 
with elderly people. I think I enjoy what I'm doing. If I look at things this way, I 
have a good life. I don 't clean floors, like many immigrants have to. 
Despite her "good enough" life-style, Delia felt that in the past, the split between 
"here" and "there" had been a source of inner discomfort, and that her decision to return to 
her homeland was now helping her to heal the cleavage between the opposites. 

Before, I was feeling split; it felt as if I had two bodies. Ttiey used to stick to one 
another, touch one another, but one wanted to be there, while the other wanted to be 
there. I was not whole. I felt stretched between multiple bodies; I was divided into 
many fragments. At one point, I got tired of this feeling, and I did not want to 
experience it anymore. I wanted to be in possession of my means. I just did not want 
to live like this anymore. I wanted to be myself. Now, I don 'tfeel this way anymore, 
because I took the decision to go back home. My decision gave me stability, a 
tranquility of spirit I never knew before. 


Under the influence of her latest experiences, Delia's perceptions about the role of 
art have also changed; she now envisioned art in its therapeutic dimension, and wanted to 
use it for helping other people. "For me, the formula 'art for the art's sake' is not of actuality 
anymore. During my last trip to Uruguay, I devoted myself to helping through art; with no 
pretension, art is a way of helping. And I think that there are little things I can do in this 
sense." After having experienced the healing capacities of the creative process on a personal 
level, Delia had the opportunity to witness the contribution of art in relieving her husband, 
and other people's acute suffering. During her husband's hospitalization, she spent most of 
her time with him, on the psychiatric ward. She offered several creativity workshops 
inspired by her own experience with art therapy, which were greatly appreciated by the 

During her stay in Uruguay, Delia continued to create a bridge between "here" and 
"there" by working on a project of artistic exchanges between the two countries, which she 
found both similar and different. 

My project will continue. It will never stop, for I really enjoy certain aspects of this 
culture; I enjoy the people and the arts. But I don 't like the type of North-American 
society, in which work prevails; it is alienating. Of course, with more money, my 
country would become similar to this one. The worst thing about my country is that 
the economy does not function very well. But we have time, we help one another, and 
we are part of a community. Uruguay is a small country trying to preserve its 

It was nice to see how some visitors from Quebec viewed us: the Uruguayan 
people are much like the Quebecers, they were saying. Yes, it's true, but in Uruguay 


immigrants are assimilated - / don 't know if this is the right word - that is, they 
adapt before the second generation. They become right away Uruguayans, that's all. 
Here, you only can become a Quebecer at the third generation. 
Delia continued developing her reflection with regard to immigration and creativity 

as she talked about one of her jobs, which consisted of teaching theatre to teenagers: 

From a creative point of view, there is a great difference between the teenagers 
recently arrived from Colombia, Peru, etc., and the ones who were born here. The 
recently arrived seem more creative. I don 't know why. Perhaps this is because this 
society offers lots of technological advantages, which inhibit creativity. The 
teenagers born in Quebec are neither from there, nor from here. When they were 
five, they took French classes with other recently arrived immigrant children, 
because they were raised at home and spoke only their mother tongue. Now they are 
in-between, but I don't know what they managed to preserve from each culture. 

Reviewing the Images 
Figure 1. 

Delia made no comments in relation to this image. 
Figure 2. 
"Every knot represents a person. And it's infinite; it could go on and on. This image 

represents the links that unite all of us. It is confirming what happened to my husband. How 

my whole network has been modified." 
Figure 3. 
As she looked at this image from a distance, Delia became more aware of the 

suffering she used to experience in the past as a result of the cleavage between her two part- 


cultures, and realized that she felt much stronger after having taken a clear decision in 

relation to where she wanted to live. 

This collage makes me a little bit sad. It really makes me feel the pain, the 
desperation of living with fragments. You see, here are my feet, they are from one of 
my own photographs, but my head is not there. And this makes me sad because it's 
all this that I lost. I don 't want to be fifty anymore. Like I said before, I want to have 
my own age, because I'm sure I'll accomplish many things. 

I've got my decision: I want to live in one place and stay there no matter 
what. It would have been the same if I decided to stay here. Making the decision to 
live somewhere and concretizing it, this is what makes the difference. Now, I can see 
how much I have suffered. I know now what I will do. But then I did not yet know 
what I was going to do. 
Delia felt transformed and in possession of a "treasure" acquired through great 

hardship, which she was ready to share with her community. 

/ actually decided to bring with me over there the best things I found here: the art, 

the knowledge, all I learned. As you said earlier, I will bring back something to my 

community. As far as I'm concerned, I will bring myself, but transformed. I know that 

I will continue to be transformed, but I don 't know what form this will take; we 

should talk again in another two years. 

Figure 4. 

This image conveys Delia's creative attempt of creating a bridge between her two 

cultures. Looking at it today made her realize how much her life circumstances have 

changed during the last two years. Her marriage continued to preserve its central position in 


her preoccupations, but her decision to buy a "piece of land" in her country modified the 
fragile equilibrium between the two opposites she has been trying to unite in her collage. 

This collage is not of actuality anymore. It makes me laugh, because I put in there a 
laughing donkey. I was laughing at myself, at my dream of living between two 
worlds. My marriage continues to be of great significance in my life, but our roles 
have changed. My relationship still generates the breath of life; no matter where we 
go and what we do, it will create life, for all that the love subsists. 

But in the meantime, things have changed, because the piece of land, I 
bought it there and I'm not going to buy another one here. Although this image gets 
more and more blurred, the art aspect of it is still of actuality, that is, my projects of 
linking together the two cultures. For me, it's more realistic to live this way, instead 
of constantly coming and going, especially if I want to have a child. 
When I asked Delia whether the triangle had any specific signification for her, she 
answered: "I talked about Maslow's pyramid... all that represents one's personal evolution, 
which keeps on being re-invented, re-created." By looking at her collage again, she felt that 
her latest significant experiences resulted in depriving her of the playfulness it conveyed. 
She was now more aware of the gravity of life and envisioned it in a more concrete manner 
than before. 

There is in this image a sense of humor and of play, a lightness that I have lost. I am 
more aware of health issues, of things that I was not taking into consideration 
before. We were young, we had never been sick; there was no death, nothing. When 
my husband had his delirium, I followed him in the street to bring him home; I asked 


for help to people in the street; I saw the train, it almost hit us. I was able to make 
him jump out of the railroad. 

This was an experience that made me see death very near. And I told myself, 
it cannot continue this way; I cannot keep on viewing myself as an actress in a 
theater play, a little bit in, a little bit out. I became more aware of the decisions I 
used to take in the past. Life is neither a theater play nor a beautiful creation; it is a 
concrete reality. 
Figure 5. 
Delia associated this collage with her immigrant condition and realized that she will 

feel relieved by giving it up. 

/ would be relieved to take this t-shirt off the clothes line. I would be relieved to take 

this t-shirt with its immigrant's specificity off me. When I will return to my country, I 

will not be an immigrant anymore. And it relieves me to take off one of these labels; 

we have so many anyway, that taking off one of them can relieve one. This image 

represents a bit of my immigrant identity and was somewhat ridiculous. 

Figure 6. 

Reviewing this image gave Delia the certitude of having been empowered through 

suffering; her transformation consisted of shifting her focus from the ethereal spheres of her 

ideals to the concreteness of her body and the contents of her heart. 

The violet is still my color. I already gave birth; I can feel that I gave birth to many 
different things. This is the image that represents me the most, except for this sense of 
floating. And the stars should be taken off. I lost some of these aspects on the way but 


/ gained others. Actually, the star is not up there anymore, it is in my heart. It is my 
heart that that expanded and took lots of space, and now all these things hold inside. 

This is because I discovered my strength. I discovered myself through 
suffering, through great hardship. Now I am in possession of my means, and I love 
myself much more than before. I fell in love with myself, not in the narcissistic sense, 
but concretely, knowing that I can do concrete things and this is what empowered 
me. Maybe people look at me and think that my life is not special, but it gives me the 
strength I need to return to my country and I'm going to create my work, my own 
Figure 7. 

This drawing reminded Delia that still today, laughing at herself was one of her main 
strategies for coping with difficulties. This image also brought her to articulate her 
perception that reality consists of a multiplicity of points of view coexisting within the same 
reality, a remark that recalls the postmodern notion of multiplicity within unity. 

This is a funny image. I find this image of myself a little bit ferocious, because I was 
laughing at myself. Because of what I'm going through, laughing at myself became 
very important for me: it takes part of my burden away, it renders things and images 
relative. There are two or three different points of view in this drawing, several 
possible readings. I find more and more that reality is like this: your version, mine, 
and another's, all of them exist in the same time, and I think that I became more 
aware of it, especially through my experience in my marriage. 


Figure 8. 

For Delia, this last collage evoked a shift of focus from the outer to the inner world, a 

strong affirmation of her capacity to get her act together and of be in full possession of her 

means. Different perspectives converge toward a central point in her inner universe, on 

which she resolutely gains a foot. 

It continues to be true that 'I'm here to stay. ' But I want to stay within my own life. I 
eventually succeeded in inhabiting myself, I own my self and this is what the foot 
represents for me today. Instead of waiting for the exterior events to shape my life, I 
commenced a process of owning myself. I don 't need anymore to be 50; I'm 30- 

This experience set off a process of conquering my self. T am here to stay, ' 
but not in the superficial sense of where I want to live physically; this is relative; I 
can live anywhere, if I am sure of myself. I didn't have this security before; I'm just 
about to start acquiring it. I identify myself very much to this image; there are 
various colors, various roads; they are all true, they represent different perspectives 
of the same thing. 
Delia gave closure to her second interview by commenting that it helped her to 

synthesize both her creative process and her vision of life: 

I'm glad that I had the chance of reviewing all these images; it was very interesting. 
I almost forgot about them. They made me rediscover the meaning of my 
experiences. We can learn from suffering and sorrow, but also from joy and 
laughter, and we can envision our experiences in their relativity. The thing is, my life 
is not stronger or more important than somebody else's. 


Incidentally, I work with children, and they tell me, 'you 're a real clown! ', 
and this aspect goes on becoming more prominent in my life. These children are only 
four or five. I joke with them, I discovered their sense of humor, and mine is 
expanding along with theirs because their sense of humor is harmless. And working 
with them is really good for me, because this is a very prominent facet of my 
personality, together with my responsible side, which cares for their security and 
health. And also, with the children I continue to paint and draw; their life is full of 
color. Since I started the workshop with you, I didn 't stop; it has really been a 
personal source of inspiration for me, which I also shared with children and with my 
husband, as I have already said. Thank you. 

Delia 's Journey: A Summary 
Table 10: Delia 's Chronological Narrative 






- In a country founded by 


- Returns with her parents to 


-Is traumatized by her departure 

Uruguay when she is 20 

- Describes her culture as 

from home to the point of 

- Marries and returns to Quebec 

characterized by 

forgetting the details of her life 

when she is 30 

nostalgia, vibrancy, and 

before immigration 

strong emotions 

-Experiences rejection and 

-Has a double ethnic 

violence at school during her first 

identity: Jewish mother and 

year in Quebec 

British father 

-Is displaced again at 20; returns 
to Uruguay, because of a 


grandparent's illness 

- Her parents' financial 



- As a 10 year old, with her 


-Returns to Uruguay at 20 





-Difficulty to find work 

- Feels torn between here and 


in her domain 


-Returns to Uruguay for 8 

-Experiences nostalgia for her 

months, at 33 (after the 




- At 30, with her husband 

-Her husband is diagnosed with 

bi-polar illness in Uruguay 

-Husband goes through a 

psychotic episode and is 


-She goes through a near-death 


-Buys a house, decides to 

establish definitively in Uruguay 

-Returns to Quebec in order to 

finalize her definitive departure 




-Temporary lack of work 

-Upon return from Uruguay, 

-Definitive return to her 

she loses her network and her 

homeland, three years 


friends' support because of 

after the workshop 

- At 33, with her husband 

her husband's mental illness 

- Has the intention to 

-Has to work and take care of 

finalize her stay in Quebec 

her husband by herself 

and to return to her 

-Feels lonely and experiences 


depressive feelings 
-Gives her suffering a positive 
interpretation: her suffering has 
made her stronger and leads to 
inner transformation 

Table 11: Delia's Imaginal Narrative 















-Returns from Uruguay 

-Experiences nostalgia 

-Dreams of renovating her 

-Feels blocked in-between, 

with regard to her past 

life by becoming pregnant 

confused, upside-down 

-Gathers together the 
disparate fragments of her 

-Attempts to embody her 
dream, but she is not ready 


life in Uruguay 

yet; looks up to the stars, 

-Initiates the journey but 

-Integrates them by 

has no hands, her belly 

cannot go either 

creating new linkages 

dissolves into the ocean 

forward or backward 

between them 


-Lives up 'here' (the map of 
North America) 
but looks down "there" (the 
map of South America) 


-Rough application of pastel 
-Colors suggest dullness and 


-Uses pastel to create a 
dream-like, melancholic 
-Creates a contrast 
between the softness 
of the pastel 
and the concreteness of 
the magazine images, as if 
the only "real" thing 
was the past 


-Uses pastel to create a 
dream-like atmosphere, 
which is emphasized by 
the colors (blue and violet) 



-Expands her awareness of 

being linked with people 

from "there" while being 


-Establishes her position as a 

nodal point within a global 

world's network 


-Involves the body in the act 
of painting by 
working with her hands, 
makes bold gestures 
-Uses various vivid colors 



-Lives in-between two 


-Attempts to re-conciliate 

"here" and "there" by 

distributing evenly 

memories and wishes for 

the future 

-Places her couple in the 

middle as symbol of 

union of opposites 

and a warrant of futurity 

-Balances suffering and 

nostalgia through humor 


-Emphasizes the 
importance of her couple 
as mediating 
element by creating a 
contrast between the 
concreteness of the 
photograph and the 
general, dream-like 
atmosphere that 
prevails in the collage 



-Asserts her capacity of 
becoming pregnant with 
new life 

-Associates belly to fertile 
earth and moon to the seeds 
-The seeds germinate and 

-Appeals to humor to 
respond to the necessity of 
regarding a situation from 
various perspectives 


-Uses oil pastel in an 
assertive, bold manner 
-The frank colors contrast 
with the ones used in the 
previous image 



-Attempts once again to 

pull together 'here' and 


but the union 'hangs by a 


-Uses an animal (the 

squirrel) as a link between 

the two 



-Gathers all her colors and 
brings them together around 
the center 
-Gains a foot 
-Turns inwards, opposite 
movement to the one 
in Figure 2 (converging 
versus expanding) 



-Appeals to her sense of 


to 'laugh at herself ; 


to attain a midpoint 

between joy and suffering 


-Uses mixed media in a 
bold, assertive manner 


-Uses affirmative brush- 
strokes and contrasting 
colors to signify "I'm here 
to stay" (I own myself) 

Table 12: Delia 's Opposites 



-Forward versus backward 


-No mediating element: 


movement is neutral 



-"Here" versus 


-The connecting lines 



-Dream-like (pastel) versus 
concrete (photographs) 


-The collage itself , which 
holds the opposites together 



-"Here" versus "there" 
-Nostalgia versus humor 


-The collage itself 

-The triangle 

-The couple 

-The 'life-giving breath' 



-"Here" versus "there" 

-Nostalgia versus humor 

-Up "here"' versus down 


-Upper part of the body 

versus lower part of the 



-The collage itself 
-The squirrel 



-The upper versus the 
lower part of the 
body, the head versus 
the womb 
-Sky versus water 


-The pregnant body 

-The evenness of the colors 



-Seed versus plant 
-Moon versus sun 
(yellow color in the 
background ) 
-Inner versus outer 


-The image itself 
-The piece of earth 



-Various colors 
converging toward 
a central point 


-The image itself 
-The foot 





-Expansion versus 


-The series of images, which 
leads from one to the other 


Death and Rebirth: Estrella 

Estrella is a humorous, proud, and assertive woman in her late thirties. Her strong 
features-long, black hair and dark eyes- recall her Columbian origins. As a multidisciplinary 
artist, Estrella wishes to experiment with an approach that differs from the solitary work in 
the art studio. She points out that the professional artist's process typically involves 
preoccupations with the quality of the final product and the viewer's eventual perception of 
it. In contrast, she views the art therapy group context as a secure, non-competitive 
container, which allows her to explore the psychological dimensions of her art. Estrella' s 
images and artistic skills eventually inspired other women in the group and, as the ties 
between participants became stronger, a few used Estrella as a role model, experimenting 
with her painting style in their own artworks. Although Estrella talks with ease about her 
life, her images have a mystery about them, which opens the possibility of various 
projections and meanings. After the end of the workshop, Estrella decided to use her images 
for a series of engravings on the theme of identity. Because of this new depth, Estrella's 
artwork eventually enjoyed a great public response. 

For Estrella, the notion of identity is not related to nationality, but rather to how one 
feels inside. She infers she is Colombian because she does not feel Canadian (or Quebecer). 
It is important to her for her children to speak Spanish, not necessarily because she perceives 
herself as a Colombian, but because speaking another language opens the possibility of 
accessing a greater cultural richness. 


Estrella 's Chronological Narrative 

Estrella was born in a poor neighborhood of Bogota, the capital of Columbia. 
During her childhood, she reports having suffered the consequences of poverty and also had 
to endure her father's sexually abusive behavior. However, her close and positive 
relationship with her mother helped her to work through these dark years of her life, and 
contributed to her developing a great sense of resilience. She proudly recounts that, despite 
her difficult life context, she managed to attend a university through her own means - a very 
unusual accomplishment for most people in a similar situation. 

As a student in her early twenties, Estrella met her husband to be, a young man from 
Montreal who was completing a work contract in Bogota. She later joined him in Montreal 
and they eventually married. When she left Columbia, Estrella's mother was already 
deceased. Otherwise, she says, she would not have been able to leave her and she still misses 
her today. 

Estrella feels lucky to have had the opportunity to immigrate to Quebec. She says she 
finds her family, social, and professional lives very satisfying, especially when she recalls 
the difficulties she had experienced in Columbia. Nonetheless, far from idealizing her 
situation, she remains aware of the discriminatory situations that one may sometimes 
encounter as an immigrant. Once in Canada, Estrella decided to study in Fine Arts and 
succeeded in completing her bachelor's degree. With her usual determination and her 
husband's support, she started building her artistic career. She persevered despite the usual 


moments of doubt, discouragement, and financial precariousness that are inherent to most 
artists' lives. 

Estrella remarks that every time she returns to her country, she becomes more and 
more aware of how much she has changed during the 15 years that she has lived in Canada. 
During this time, she gave birth to two children, who are now 8 and 2. When her daughter 
asks her about her youth, she feels she cannot recount joyous stories. Even though she did 
not have a happy childhood, she enjoys accompanying her own children through their 
childhoods; she finds that being with her children helps her to recover her lost innocence. 

Estrella' s childhood wounds contributed to her interest in feminist themes and issues. 
She has created numerous art installations, public performances, videos, and paintings that 
question the feminine condition and men's violence. Today, Estrella enjoys the fruits of her 
assiduous work as she is invited to exhibit in various national and international art 
exhibitions. One of her latest installations in Mexico City was a vigil to the memory of the 
400 young women killed in Ciudad de Juarez, a town situated close to the border between 
Mexico and the United States. A large audience attended this event, which she later 
presented in Montreal and in other Canadian cities. 

Estrella 's Imaginal Narrative 
Separation: Getting in Touch with the Shadow 

Figure 1: Evoking her mother's memory. 

This collage was created from various sizes of photocopies of a photograph taken at 
the first communion of Estrella's mother; she is accompanied in this picture by her own 
mother. Estrella explains that the original photograph was sent to her recently by a family 

Figure 1 : Untitled 

"My mother is with my grandmother, but my 

grandmother is about to disapear into the dark. In 

fact, my mother's mother represents her shadow." 


Figure 2: Untitled 

"I repeated the structure of the first image, 

so this painting represents its synthesis." 


Figure 3 : Untitled 

Estrella suddenly recalled a traumatic event that occurred 

when she was three. Her home was devoured by flames. 


Figure 4: Untitled 

Unwinding from the center, the red, expanding spiral leads towards 

a dark opening through which one can perceive a kneeling Figure. 


Figure 5: Untitled 

"This image is central to all my other images. If we get back to 

the shadow, it represents its darkest side, the most shadowy one.' 


Figure 6: Untitled 

"The house is related to identity, it is the family, where we live. To 

have a house means having a place of one"'s own, a sense of cohesion."' 


Figure 7: Untitled 

Estrella pointed out that in her images there is 

always a wound, a sense of suffering, which she 

identifies as the motor that prompts her to create. 


Figure 8: Untitlled 
In her view, her art conveyed both her shadowy 
and her luminous sides.The wound in the 
middle united the two sides of the picture. 


Figure 9: Untitled 

At last, the delicate, white lace butterfly - which in Figure 4 

recalled the radiance of the day - transformed into a bold, 

dark butterfly evoking the mysteries of the night. 


Figure 10 : Untitled 

"In these paintings, I approach the topic of identity, but also the 

theme of death. 1 don't necessarily speak of physical death, but 

about its aspects found by one in loneliness, exile, abandonment." 


Figure 11: Untitled 

"When you are abused, you somehow die. 

When you are unhappy, you also die a little bit."' 


Figure 12: Untitled 

In Figures 10 and 1 1, the white and dark veiled figures are represented 

separately, although they have one and the same wound in common. 

Here, the opposites are brought together. 



member who still lives in Columbia. While sharing some of her childhood memories that 
related to her image with the group, Estrella emphasized her closeness with her mother and 
her father's violence and addiction to alcohol. 

The repetition of the same motif in various sizes draws the viewer's attention to the 
fact that the photograph is highly significant for Estrella, and contributes to amplifying the 
feeling of sadness it conveys. The white of the two women's clothing is tinted pink and 
sepia, giving the impression that they have been soiled. However, the contrast between light 
and dark is preserved in a few places. 

Figure 2: Sorting out shadow and light and placing them side by side. 

As a continuation of the process initiated in Figure 1 , Estrella has translated her 
mother's picture through the medium of painting. She made no comments about Figure 2, 
saying that she was not able to reflect upon the meaning of an image she had just produced. 

The two figures turn their backs to the viewer and seem to be looking backwards. 
Already present in Figure 1 , the contrast between light and dark is reinforced in Figure 2. 
The red and violet background accentuates the dramatic impact of this painting. The two 
veiled figures recall the union of polarities, which is the ultimate task of individuation. 
However, although light and dark are brought side-by-side within the same image, they are 
still two separate entities. 

The symbolism of colors may help penetrate the deeper layers of Estrella' s 
mysterious image. As non-colors, both black and white typically evoke neutrality and 
emptiness. Both are associated with grieving and negative symbolism. However, they 
express two different kinds of sorrow; whereas black suggests absolute passivity, a 
definitive loss, and a lack of hope, white evokes an absence that can be filled, a provisional 


vacancy. The more positive symbolism of black may link it to the terrestrial womb, which 
contains a latent life, a promise of renewal (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). White is 
associated with rites of passage; it is a symbol of transformation, according to the classic 
schema of death and rebirth. In most rites of passage, the candidate to initiation wears a 
white gown, which signifies surrender and availability, and indicates that his or her 
condition will soon be changed. Mircea Eliade associated white with the first phase of the 
initiation rites, that of the struggle against death (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

Life and death, as the deepest human instincts, are symbolically associated to two 
different kinds of red: light and dark. The light red - diurnal, male, and stimulating - is often 
associated with the expression of life, while dark red - feminine, nocturnal, and secret - is 
associated with the womb, "the vital mystery hidden in the depth of the darkness and that of 
the primordial oceans" (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982, p. 832). 

Figure 3: Evoking the trauma. 

As she started working on Figure 3, Estrella suddenly recalled a traumatic event that 
occurred when she was three years old. She and her siblings were alone in the house; 
because they had no electricity, they lit a candle and inadvertently set fire to the kitchen. Her 
home was devoured by flames and her youngest sister died. 
Initiation: The Descent 

Figure 4: A red spiral leading into the underworld. 

Estrella has integrated a few symbols in her collage, such as the snake, which are 
extremely important to her. This symbol is represented here by a red, expanding spiral on 
which a few small squares are stringed. Unwinding from its center, the spiral leads towards a 


dark opening through which one can perceive a kneeling figure. According to Estrella, the 
red evokes blood. On the lower right side of the collage, blood pours out of a seed. 

The serpent is described by Chevalier & Geerbrant (1982) as an ambiguous symbol 
whose sexual connotation recalls at once the womb and the phallus. Whereas some cultures 
associate the snake with the shadow and to man's predatory potential, others give it a 
positive connotation related to healing. As a fundamental archetype, the serpent is associated 
with the sources of life and imagination, "the underworld and oceans, the primordial waters 
and depth of the earth" (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982, p. 869). 

Another symbol that is ever-present in Estrella' s work is the house. She envisions it 
without any of the decorative objects or memorabilia that are usually encountered in a cozy 
home. The importance she attributes to this symbol is due to the fact that she has never had a 
house. The white lace butterfly of which she made a photocopy belongs to Estrella' s 
daughter. The lace and embroidery motifs she incorporated into this image evoke the work 
Estrella' s mother did for a living. Already used in Figure 1, the photograph of her mother 
and grandmother completes the lineage of women in her family, their features dissimulated 
in this image by black paint. 

Figure 5: Naming the wound and accepting the sacrifice. 

Estrella introduced this collage as a "religious picture" about wounds and sacrifice. 
Religion has always frightened her. As a child, she was terrorized by the religious picture on 
the wall of her grandmother's house. As she described the image, she commented that, 
although in the catholic religion, God's eye was supposed to watch over everything, in this 
collage someone was being killed under God's impassible gaze. In the lower right corner of 
the collage, she has integrated a representation of herself as a praying child. 


This collage conveys complex religious symbolism. The unique eye without an 
eyelid - often considered a symbol of the Divine Essence, which sees everything (Chevalier 
& Geerbrant, 1982) - witnesses impassively the sacrificial scene. All protagonists are 
dressed in white clothes, recalling Estrella's mother's first communion robe. In many 
traditions, sacrifice is understood as an offering to God or as the action that renders 
something sacred, sometimes even involving the immolation of a son or a daughter. The 
sacrificed is dressed in white, the color of the candidate for initiation in rites of death and 
rebirth (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

The sacrificial scene is set in a dark place such as a cave, evoking a symbolic 
representation of the underworld. In the transitional space between the lower and the upper 
parts of the image, the presence of a white rooster announces the dawn. Because its chant 
precedes the sunrise, the rooster is sometimes associated with the figure of Christ, which 
annunciates resurrection (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). In another of its symbolic 
functions, that of psychopompe, the rooster was believed to accompany the dead on their 
journey to the underworld, in order to insure rebirth. As the first manifestation of the day, 
the rooster is considered to ward off the bad influences of the night. In Greek mythology, a 
rooster was sacrificed to Asclepios, the god of medicine; as his representative, the rooster 
was believed to heal illnesses (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

Figure 6: Preparing her return to the upper world 

Estrella situated this image in its continuity with a previous series of paintings 
entitled "Femme cherche maison" ("Woman Looking for a House"), for which she was 
inspired by another contemporary woman artist's work on a similar topic. 


Estrella's first childhood house burned down when she was three (Figure 3). The red 
in the background may evoke her recollection of that distant event, while the green may 
suggest regeneration and hope. Naked, the woman runs forward through a garden, carrying 
her house on her head. Like Estrella's previous collages, this image has various possible 
layers of meaning. Metaphorically-speaking, people who leave their country carry with them 
a symbolic image of their home, both as a recollection of their actual house and a 
representation of self. While the typical home usually has a solid, fixed foundation, the 
exiles' may be anchored in their imaginary world. 
Return: Integrating the Wound 

Figures 7, 8, and 9: Sharing the secret. 

Estrella pointed out that in her images there is always a wound, a sense of suffering, 
which she identifies as the motor that prompts her to create. Purging suffering to heal, the 
wound was nonetheless only one of the two aspects that informed Estrella's artistic work. 
The other was related to her healthy and positive side, which she wanted to expand. In her 
view, her art conveyed both her shadowy and her luminous sides. The same was true for 
Figures 8 and 9, she said: the wound in the middle united the two sides of the picture. She 
did not make any comments about Figure 7. 

Estrella's previous collages contained a variety of symbols that made an allusion to 
the sexual abuse she suffered as a child; yet her wound was evoked in veiled terms only. In 
contrast, in Figures 7, 8, and 9, the wound is overtly revealed. Estrella's acknowledgment of 
her suffering is conveyed by the transformation of the symbols from the previous images 
into new ones that reflect the progression of her individuation process. For instance, the 
white robes in Figure 5 turn black in Figure 7, a change that may evoke her mourning 


process, and the resulting depressive feelings. Another example can be seen in the 
transformation of the red expanding spiral in Figure 4 into an explicit wound. Estrella 
associated this image with the serpent in Figure 8; the wound crosses the center of the 
image, cleaving it into light and dark opposites. At last, the delicate, white lace butterfly 
belonging to Estrella' s daughter - which in Figure 4 evoked innocence, lightness and the 
radiance of the day - transforms into a bold, dark butterfly evoking the mysteries of the 
night in Figure 9; the butterfly's body is similar to the wound represented in Figure 8. 
Final Revision: Accepting the Wound 

Estrella' s final revision was accompanied by a recording of nostalgic Columbian 
songs that her mother used to play as she was cleaning the house. The same song, which 
tells the story of two people who are far away from each other and long to see each other 
again, was often played at the tavern where Estrella's father used to get drunk. While the 
music was playing, the group contemplated her images in silence. During these emotional 
moments, Estrella did not make comments about her images. According to her, they 
resemble the ones she has produced previously in her studio, with the difference that during 
this workshop, she mainly focused on her memories with regard to her mother. However, 
she pointed out again that all her images display a wound, which reminds her of a serpent. 
She added that she would like to make a more elaborate series of artworks inspired by these 

Figures 10, 11 and 12: Healing the wound and accepting the scar. 
Estrella made no comments about Figures 10, 11, and 12, which she produced after revising 
her previous images. In these paintings, the wound is overtly identified by her as sexual 
abuse. They show evidence of Estrella's attempts to work through the sexual abuse she 


suffered as a child and integrate it into her consciousness. In Figures 10 and 1 1, the white 
and the dark veiled figures are represented separately, although they have one and the same 
wound in common. In Figure 12, these opposites are brought together: the black takes on 
some greenish, lighter shades and is integrated with the white into one and the same figure. 
The red, which Estrella used to evoke the wound, is now situated outside the central 
character. A red dot at the level of the chest is intended to remind the viewer that even 
through the wound is healed, there are always traces left on one's heart. 

Fortunately, Estrella seems at ease with diving repeatedly into the darkness, coming 
back, bringing to the surface the painful images of her trauma, and eventually, integrating 
them into both her artwork and her consciousness. The group context offered Estrella a 
secure container, which allowed her to descend into the deeper layers of her suffering. She 
expressed the intention of continuing to work on some of the images she produced during 
the workshop, attempting to transform them through the more elaborate medium of 

Two Years Later... 

During the second interview, Estrella concentrated on the artwork she created during 
the workshop. In addition to using them as a powerful source of inspiration for a new series 
of copper-plate etchings, she continued to alter and transform her images through the 
medium of photo-engraving. Her new engravings won Estrella the opportunity to participate 
in an international biennial print exhibition. Giving herself the permission to overtly 
approach important autobiographical issues during the art therapy workshop appeared to 
have had a liberating effect in her life. She was able to bring her art to a new level of depth, 
which ended up by arousing a great public response. 


At the end of the interview, Estrella made a comparison between art therapy and 
professional studio-art. She viewed art therapy as an approach that offered a safe container 
for self expression, and which did not include any judgments with regard to one's artistic 
performance. In contrast, the professional artistic milieu envisioned the expression of 
personal or intimate issues as having little interest, and tended to value topics considered of 
public interest or universal signification. From this perspective, the appreciation of a work of 
art emphasized aesthetic, technical and conceptual criteria. However, in my opinion, 
Estrella' s creative process stands as a vivid demonstration of the fact that personal 
expression and the larger preoccupation with universal themes situate on a continuum, rather 
than in opposition. 
Reviewing the Images 

Figure 1. 

After I shared with Estrella my notes in relation to this image, she started discussing 
the way she envisioned the notion of shadow. She commented that, although she basically 
agreed with the view of the shadow as the dark, hidden part of our personality, the 
signification she attributed to it was quite different. For her, it represented the absence of 
the body as a physical presence. As an example she described one of the video installations 
she had created in relation to Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city where, not very long ago, 400 
women had been mysteriously murdered within a short span of time. 

/ wanted to talk about the women who have been assassinated, but instead of 

showing raped bodies and cut off breasts I utilized the metaphor of these women 's 

shadows projected onto the sand, for Ciudad Juarez is situated in the desert. I used 


the shadows in order to talk about these dead women. In this sense, the shadow 
stands for the absence of the body; it is a body which is not there. 

In fact, as I talk about these women, I also talk about myself. I identify with 
these women, with their suffering, and with their mothers who are sad because their 
daughters have died. In my video, there are not only these women 's shadows, but 
also mine. As artists, we identify with our topic, and this is true for any artistic work 
we create. We are the shadows of those who preceded us. 
After having introduced the role played by the shadow in her work in general, 

Estrella talked about her perception of her actual image: 

In this image, my mother is with my grandmother, but my grandmother is about to 
disappear into the dark. In fact, my mother's mother represents her own shadow. A 
great contrast is created between the two figures. My mother wears her first 
communion 's white robe, and her image is very luminous because it is white and 
delicate, whilst her mother is already sitting into darkness. Now I feel as if my own 
dead mother became my shadow; she represents what is already left behind me. I 
envision the shadow this way, like something into which I will one day transform 
myself, something that is exterior to us, but which sticks to us in the meantime. 
Figure 2. 
Estrella continued developing the idea of shadow in relation to her second image, 

which she saw as a summary of the first. 

/ repeated the structure of the first image, so this painting represents its synthesis. 
I'm sure that my grandmother has died little after this photograph has been taken, 
because my mother has become an orphan at a very, very young age. So she became 


my mother's shadow. But in the meantime, I identify to it. Now, it is my turn to be 
alive, but my shadow doesn 't ever leave me, it is like a copy of me. Now that I have a 
daughter, I will also be in the shadow one day. It's funny! I can see here that I 
placed the red on one side and a darker color on the other. One day, I will also be 
into the shadow. 
Figure 3. 

We were living in a poor house. We were five children, in fact six, but my youngest 
sister died very young. The fire was an accident. We were cooking with gas and we 
had no electricity. We were alone at home and, as we were lighting the cooking 
machine to make something to eat, the house caught fire. 
Figure 4. 

In relation to this image, Estrella discussed each symbol in relation to the meaning 
she was attributing to it. 

There is an oval form here, which recalls the form of a vagina. I already used it in 
other art works, prior to your workshop; I associate it to the shadow. It's a form that 
represents the feminine. I also used it in the following collage under the form of a red 
whole or a passage. 

The butterfly reminded her of a game called Think of an Animal that she once played 
as a child. Each participant had to name two different animals: the first one represented the 
others' perception of who one was, and the second, one's own perception with regard to 
oneself. Estrella recalled that at first, she chose the horse, an animal she used to love. In her 
playmates' eyes, a horse was beautiful, strong and intelligent, qualities that they were 
attributing to her. Estrella's second choice was the butterfly: 


/ have always been a delicate, sensitive person and I would have liked the others to 
perceive me this way. When I was little, I didn 't see myself as beautiful. I was shy 
and I wasn 't well dressed. In the secondary school, my perception of myself started 
to change. 

Central to her collage, the spiral represented an important symbol, which she also 
used in her installation in relation to Ciudad Juarez, created prior to the workshop. 

/ used the spiral as a symbol of the infinite, of life; it doesn 't stop, it goes on. But in 
the meantime, there is death. All these women were dead, death is a spiral with no 
end to it, one would like to stop it, but the violence doesn 't stop. In my installation I 
used the spiral as a symbol of both life and death, of the infinite, of a time that never 
stops. For me, time is memory, what remains of us, the memories that we should not 
forget, because if we forget, everything is over. If we remember, nothing stops. Like 
for my mother, she continues to live in my memory in all I do, so it is as if she was 
not really dead. 

In this image, the spiral might also stand for the serpent. I lived for two years 
in Mexico where the serpent is related to the spiral, to the passage of time. It eats it 
own tale in order to be reborn. When your workshop started, I was just coming back 
from Mexico; I was still having the idea that the serpent is very important in 
Mexican culture. So the serpent has a link with time and memory, and necessarily to 
Figure 5. 

This image is central to all my other images, it is very complex. If we get back to the 
shadow, this represents its darkest side, the most shadowy one. I tried to transpose it 


further into an engraving and it didn 't work. Perhaps it was so difficult to do so 

because of its complexity. 

Estrella felt the need to explain the life context that inspired this collage. For 

instance, she said, the religious images to which she alluded in her image used to hang on 

the walls of her paternal grandmother's house. 

She had a large house in a small village. We used to spend our vacations there. But 
there were lots of fights between my mother and my father. When he was staying 
there, my father used to drink more, and my grandmother was dinking too. My 
mother was always angry; each time, it was more of a disaster than a real vacation. 
My grandmother was very religious. All these religious images were hanging on her 
walls, and I was afraid of all these icons, especially the eye. We were told: 'God sees 
everything, God hears everything '. Religion was very present in my life. 
She went on commenting on how she realized that the religious discourse that she 

heard during her childhood years did not have much to do with her real life. 

My father was very religious, but in the meantime, when he was getting drunk, he 
was beating us and my mother, he was abusing us. This is why my perception of it 
has become so complicated. When I was little, my father was obliging us to get up 
very early in the morning and go to the mass. The values we used to hear about in 
the church were about solidarity, kindness, love, God who sacrifices himself for his 
son, and so on. In the meantime, in our house it was us who were sacrificing 
ourselves for my father. My father was abusing me, I was confused. 


Then she shared her understanding of the religious symbols that she included in her 
collage, and which alluded in a metaphorical manner to the sexual abuse she suffered in her 

In this image, somebody is about to be murdered, there is also a blindfolded Christ. 
This is the story of a betrayal I believe, perhaps Saint Peter's, when the rooster 
chanted tree times. The rooster is a symbol of Christianity. At Easter, my father was 
obliging us to go to all the masses, there were about thirty, we had to go. We were 
also watching theater plays that represented the sacrifice, the cross road, and so on; 
this was a very common Easter custom in Latin America. In one of the theater plays, 
Jesus told Peter: you will betray me when the rooster will chant three times. There 
was always a rooster somewhere, I don 't quite remember. I found my rooster in a 
magazine and it was fitting my image. 

I was feeling very small and lonely in all this; this is why I placed the praying 
little girl onto the lower part of the collage. The sky looks very dramatic. There is a 
veiled woman. The eye is related to my father. At one point, my mother gave up 
religion all together; she didn 't want to know anything about it anymore, and my 
father used to get very upset with her because of this. There is a red spot in the 
center, red is always present in most of my images. 

After the workshop, I worked on the image of a volcano. It does not come 
from this image, but it still makes me think of it. The volcano is a memory from 
Mexico, where there are lots of them. There are always many things happening 
inside. I see myself as a volcano in activity. What's inside has to somehow come out. 


Figure 6. 

I utilized the house in this image for an engraving. I like it. There is a lot of light in 

here. The house is related to identity, it is the family, where we live. It is not the 

house as an object. It rather signifies what I already said before: to have a house 

means having a place of one's own, a sense of cohesion. 

Figures 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. 

Estrella agreed with my view of these images as a process of integrating the wound. 

Nonetheless, she talked about them very briefly: "I don't want my art to be about my own 

sorrows. For me, it is very important that I approach my suffering at a larger level; I know 

that it touches other people as well." 

I asked Estrella weather she thought that she could have acquired a larger vision with 

regard to human suffering if she did not deal with her own first. She answered: 

/ have my own wounds, but I also want to talk about the others '. Sometimes I speak 
about dramas that are not mine, but which became mine. WJien I do so, it moves 
other people, who can also identify to these wounds on a personal level. In these 
images, I approach the topic of identity, yes, but also the theme of death. I don 't 
necessarily speak of physical death, but about its aspects found by one in loneliness, 
exile, absence, abandonment, all of which refer to a certain kind of death. When you 
are abused, you somehow die. When you are unhappy, you also die a little bit. I don 't 
want to talk only about my own mother's death. 
I then wanted to know why she was interested in the workshop, since the whole 

process consisted in exploring her own suffering. She explained that it was exactly this 


aspect that attracted her, for as a professional artist she found it was difficult to express 

herself at a more intimate level. 

Of course, the aesthetic aspect is important to me, in that I know what colors I want 
to use and how. After ten or fifteen years of studio work, it just comes to you 
naturally. It becomes a mechanical reflex to pay attention to composition, color, to 
aesthetics. In your workshop, I have paid attention to these things. Nonetheless, what 
interested me was the absence of a critical eye with regard to the artistic side of my 

Of course, in either the art school or the art studio you can never talk about 
your own wounds. If you go to the art school and you say that your father abused 
you, the instructor will tell you: 'You don 't come here to talk about this. ' It is the 
concept that counts. Your individual suffering doesn 't count. I need to conceptualize 
what I am doing. 

In your workshop, I can talk about myself, about Estrella 's sores, before 
talking about the entire world's troubles. In the art school, we are never allowed to 
do that. But I find it 's a pity. I remember that it happened once or twice, during my 
bachelor degree: a woman talked about her artwork and suddenly she happened to 
stumble on her own psychological wounds. I remember that she was around 60. She 
said she created her artwork because she had been abused, and then she started to 
cry. Everybody seemed to disapprove of her, everybody seemed embarrassed. We are 
all in the same boat, but we are not allowed to talk about what 's going on a personal 


My last question was related to the way in which Estrella's exploration of her 
childhood wounds have eventually informed her subsequent work. "People find that there is 
a depth in my work. I don't want to be fashionable, but I still have to come up with concepts 
in order to explain it." 

Looping the Loop: Mara 

At first, Mara appeared to me a dignified woman in her early fifties. However, as the 
bond between women in the group grew stronger, her somewhat reserved attitude started to 
change and reveal a more original and adventurous personality. Her gradual opening was 
compared by one of the participants to a treasure chest. Her images convey a colorful world 
seasoned with a zest for life. 

Born in Canada, Mara lived in Switzerland most of her adult life, returning to 
Canada recently. She says she left for Europe largely because she never felt Canadian. She 
recounts that, although she often felt like a stranger in Switzerland, she appreciated the 
Swiss lifestyle. Today, Mara still feels ambivalent about Canada; however, she notices that 
in comparison to Switzerland, where life was far too easy, here necessity stimulates her to 
strive for her life. 

Mara 's Chronological Narrative 

Mara envisions her migratory process as a continuation of her parents', who 
emigrated from Holland after the Second World War. Although she was born in Canada, she 
never felt Canadian. This is the reason why she left for Europe when she was 2 1 -years-old, 
with the intention of never coming back. However, three years ago she unexpectedly had to 


return to Canada after 30 years of living in Switzerland, becoming an immigrant of some 

The story of her parents' immigration - which they later recounted to their children - 
had a profound effect on Mara's psyche. After traveling by boat for three weeks with a 9- 
month-old baby, they reached the port of Montreal. From there, they were immediately sent 
to a village where they were given work on a farm. An indifferent immigration agent wrote 
the address on a large piece of paper, which he negligently stuck on their chests; as Mara's 
parents only spoke Dutch, he didn't make any effort to communicate with them or create eye 
contact. Mara's parents shared with their children their humiliation at being treated like 
"work animals" and losing their dignity. Their distress was amplified by the fact that had 
belonged to the Dutch upper class and used to have servants for the housework, recounted 

He parents worked hard throughout their active life, managing to raise their three 
daughters. After the first few months, Mara's parents left their first job and worked on other 
farms. They moved 5 times, from one farm to another, around the same area. Their 
instability eventually colored Mara's own life. Overwhelmed with difficulties, Mara's 
mother became very depressed. Because neither her family nor her husband's approved of 
their departure for Canada, she could not count on them and felt deprived of moral support. 
With time, however, her parents' financial situation improved and they eventually built their 
first house when Mara was eight-years-old. It is that house that Mara left at age 21. Later, 
her parents acquired a large piece of land in a neighboring village where they built their 
second house, where Mara returned recently with her Swiss husband. 


In terms of migratory trajectory, Mara left Canada when she became an adult and 
traveled for some time across Europe. She met her husband in a Swiss vacation town where 
he was living. They worked together for a few years in various tourist resorts in the area, 
until were able to buy their own hotel and start a family. Mara explains that a hotel owner's 
social status used to be highly valued by Swiss society, and facilitated access to a privileged 
position in the community. Although she often felt like a stranger in Switzerland, Mara 
found that this country corresponded nonetheless to the type of values and lifestyle she 
enjoys best. She described Swiss people as very traditional and not too appreciative of 
strangers; however, her position improved the moment she married a national. Despite her 
socially and economically satisfying situation, the high contrast between Mara's freedom in 
Canada and the constraint exercised by the more traditional Swiss values became stifling to 
her. With time, she started to long for a substantial change. 

This change occurred at Mara's husband's initiative. Due to the overwhelming 
quantity of work in their own hotel, he suggested they immigrate to Canada, a country to 
which he was very attracted. This was not Mara's first choice, but she eventually agreed. 
Mara and her husband left for Canada and returned to her parents' house; her mother having 
died a few years earlier, the house was now inhabited by her father only. Although her 
migratory process was by far easier than her parents,' it had its share of ordeals. The couple 
left Switzerland without being able to sell their tourist resort, which they eventually had to 
abandon, while their children remained in Europe. On the day of her fiftieth birthday, 
Mara's father committed suicide. Following this traumatic event, she went through a long 
period of grieving. Despite all these difficulties, Mara says that today she feels more 


peaceful. She realizes that she actually felt enlivened by having to let go of her belongings 
and change her environment. By the time of her participation in the workshop, Mara was in 
the process of selling her family house. When the sale was completed during the workshop, 
she bought another in a neighboring village. Her husband found an enjoyable job as a horse 
caretaker on a farm. 

Mara was trained in art therapy in Switzerland. She earns a living by offering art 
workshops in a small studio rented in a nearby town. She decided to complete her 
professional training with a degree in art education. Although her appreciation of Canada 
has not grown, and she does not identify with her Canadian nationality, she feels stimulated 
and rejuvenated by the necessity of striving for her life and enjoys meeting new people. 
However, because immigrating to Canada was her husband's desire, Mara intends to 
reconsider her own decision in five years. She wants to be sure she genuinely enjoys living 
here. If she did not feel comfortable in Canada, she would return to Switzerland, no matter 
what her husband's intentions were. She describes herself as a "rebel" raised in absolute 
freedom on a large land, and her husband, as the stable pole of the couple. 

Mara 's Imaginal Narrative 
Separation: Leaving behind her Father's House 

Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5: Revisiting the cold waters of the past and warming up. 

Mara did not have any specific idea in mind as she was painting Figures 1 and 2. She 
mentions that the lake in Figure 2 just "popped up" on the paper in an unexpected manner. 
Then she realized that this second painting represented her parents' land on which she grew 
up and to which she returned. She had no desire to continue the family tradition by taking 

Figure 1: Untitled 

"Now, when I see that I started this painting by covering the 

whole paper with blue and white, 1 know that in the beginning 

it was difficult for me to feel at ease in the group." 

Figure 2: Untitled 

'This painting is clearer than the first. Like in the first 

painting, 1 used the blue, there are three parts, the 

sky, the earth, and the water, and it is night time." 


Figure3: Untitled 
'It is early in the morning, there is light, something strats happening.' 

Figure 4: Untitled 

"Now, the earth is really illuminated by the sun. 

Like in the first painting, the sky is dark, but the earth 

is bathed with sunlight. It's later in the morning." 


Figure 5: Untitled 

'Now, we are really in a natural environment, everything starts growing 

and moving, everything is bursting with life. 1 enjoy orange a lot." 



Figure 6: Untitled 

She wanted to represent various facets of her life, such 

as her interest in home, food, sensuality and money. 

Figure 7: Untitled 

Mara explained that she created this image 

by assembling "the textures of her life."'"' 


Figure 8: Untitled 

She wanted her mandala to be "imperfect and well-decorated." 

She associated this symbol with her desire to grow old gracefully. 


Figure 9: Untitled 

'I see doors, openings, and complementary colors. All these forms 

are sort of round and square, they represent man and woman." 


Figure 10: Untitled 

"This mandate looks as if it has been broken into pieces, 

thrown in the air, left in the water, soaked, blurred and 

somewhat fragmented, but still beautiful, because one can 

look for the fost fragments and gather them together again." 


Figure 1 1 : Untitled 

'Perhaps the spiral stands for development, we enter it and then we leave 

it, but we are always in our own center. We can go in and find out who 

we are, find peace and then go out again and continue our lives." 



care of it, she said, especially because it evoked childhood memories. She was in the process 
of selling it and buying another house. 

According to Mara, Figures 3, 4, and 5 were inspired by Alicia's presence in the 
group, a young Cuban woman whose expressiveness and playfulness she found very 
attractive. She thought that Alicia's personality was the opposite of hers, and expressed the 
desire of developing similar qualities. She associated the progression of colors from grey to 
orange in these three images with a gradual expression of warmth, which she viewed as a 
characteristic of Cuban culture. She shared with the group her dream of going to Cuba and 
of experiencing the life of Cuban people. 

The progression from Figure 1 to Figure 2 is similar to the gradual receding of a 
zoom lens. At first, one can see a close up over a stretch of water, and then, the whole 
picture of a lake viewed from a distance. The green-grey, wavy movement in Image 1 
evokes the undifferentiated waters of the sea. Figure 2, which led to Mara's sudden 
awareness related to her actual concerns, suggests a process of differentiation: the whole 
natural environment can now be seen in its details. 

A similar movement of a zoom lens in the opposite direction is evoked by Figures 3, 
4, and 5; the waters meeting the horizon in Figure 3 eventually transform into abstract 
textures in Figure 5. These three paintings display a progression from cold to warm colors. 
The touch of orange in Figure 3 expands in Figure 4, taking on sensual, warm overtones. 
The orange eventually takes over the whole page in Figure 5, where it transforms into an 
incandescent, dynamic movement. Whereas Mara's brushstrokes were long and wavy in the 
four preceding paintings, here they become rapid and playful. Composed of dots of yellow, 
red, pink, and some violet, Figure 5 conveys fiery, vibrant, and joyful feelings 


Initiation: Redefining her Identity 

Figures 6 and 7: Assembling the textures of her life. 

In the beginning of the third session, each woman shared with the group some aspect 
of their life that they considered representative. In order to enhance their presentation, they 
had to choose from amongst several small figurines the one that attracted them. Mara was 
drawn towards a small couple of teddy bears kissing each other; she commented that they 
represented her appreciation of "love, tenderness, and good sexuality." 

After she finished her two collages (Figures 6 and 7), Mara shared that she did not 
know anything about the technique of collage; this is the reason why she let herself be 
inspired by the work of other women in the group. She commented that the orange, the color 
she chose for the background, was her favorite color. She then attempted to display on it the 
images, according to their textures, colors, and content.. 

In Figure 6, she wanted to represent various facets of her life, such as her interest in 
home, food, sensuality, and money. Mara mentioned that after selling the family land, she 
and her husband bought a new house close to the village where she was born. As for the 
images of women, they represent different aspects of her personality. On the one side of the 
collage, a group of religious women seem happy to be "married to god," while and on the 
other, a couple of young lovers incarnate the earthly ideal of love and beauty. The black and 
white photographs of Mara's two children form the two poles of a central axis. She 
commented upon her close relationship with her daughter and her more distant relationship 
with her son, whose personality is very similar to hers. The greyhound she adopted recently 
occupies the center of the collage. Mara says that the dog is now part of her daily life and 
that he is now "enjoying a well deserved retreat." She identifies with him and hopes to be 


able to rest peacefully when the time comes for her to retire. The dog's picture nears that of 
the mountains, a recollection of the Swiss town in which she used to live. 

With regard to Figure 7, Mara explains that she created it by assembling together the 
"textures of her life." This collage is mainly about colors and textures, she commented. It 
conveys her passion for sewing. Mara used to enjoy designing patterns for dresses and 
sewing them, activities that relaxed her. When her children were young, she also used to knit 
a lot. She likes buying and preparing food. These colorful memories brought her to talking 
about the house to which she was preparing to move; she was already excited at the idea of 
renovating and painting it, a creative activity similar to designing a dress. She mentioned 
that this was the first opportunity in her life to choose a house. To the colorful textures of 
her life, Mara added her own black and white photographs as a child and those of her 
parents. She liked contrasts, she said. In the center of her collage, she glued a photograph of 
"primitive people," with whom she said she identifies and whose body decorations and 
costumes she finds "intriguing." 

Both the dog (Figure 6) and the "primitive people" (Figure 7) occupy the center of 
Mara's two collages and represent the figures with which she currently identifies. Their 
centrality recalls her wish to develop such qualities as warmth, exuberance, and naturalness - 
personality traits that she projects upon Cuban people. Mara's approach to her two collages 
is similar. However, whereas Figure 6 allows for the orange background to show through the 
images, in Figure 7 the photographs are so tightly "knitted" together that the background 
disappears. Figure 7 is more abstract, colorful, and contrasting; the red becomes here the 
most prominent color. 


Figure 8: Unifying past and present and thinking of the future. 

Mara said that her idea of painting a mandala arose following another participant's 
comments about this symbol. After she finished her painting, she started counting the 
number of transversal lines on the outer circle "just for fun." She realized that there were 
fifty, a number she associates to her fiftieth anniversary, which occurred when she returned 
to Canada three years earlier. Mara felt pleased with the idea of breaking the perfection of 
the circle; she explained that she wanted her mandala to be "imperfect and well-decorated." 
She associated this symbol with her desire to grow old gracefully, and accept that old age 
implies a need of rest. In contrast to her 85-years-old grandmother who was not able to 
accept her lack of energy, Mara hoped that at a similar age she would enjoy sitting down, 
taking her time, and contemplating life. Yet, Mara did not feel ready to grow old right away, 
for she still felt "like a gypsy who wanted to enjoy life the best she could." 

For Jung, the mandala represents the psyche, its roundness symbolizing a natural 
integrity. He observed that this motif appears spontaneously, with the purpose of 
consolidating the individual's inner being on the road of individuation. In the Tibetan 
tradition, the contemplation of a mandala is believed to inspire a feeling that one has found a 
sense of meaning and order to one's life. According to Jung, this form is supposed to create 
a similar effect when it appears in the dreams of modern individuals who don't know 
anything about religious traditions. It fulfills the double role of preserving the existent 
psychic order, or of reestablishing it if it has disappeared (Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982). 

Violet, which is predominant in this image, can be viewed as a color of "temperance, 
lucidity, and reflective action. . .a color of appeasement in which the ardor of red is softened" 
(Chevalier & Geerbrant, 1982, p. 1020). Mara's awareness with regard to the passage of 


time evokes another signification of this color, which is regarded as a symbol of the 

autumnal passage from life to death. As an alchemical symbol, the violet relates to the 

phenomenon of renewal through successive cycles of death and rebirth (Chevalier & 

Geerbrant, 1982). However, despite the predominance of this color, Mara synthesizes within 

the concentric circles of her mandala some of the colors she has already used in her previous 


Return: Introducing the New in her Life 

Final revision. 

In order to accompany the presentation of her images to the group, Mara brought a 
recording of the music that she listened to in Switzerland 15 years ago, when she was taking 
classes of Balladi, a traditional Arabic dance. She came to the session wearing the outfit she 
used during the classes. The other participants were surprised to discover that its colors were 
similar to those of her mandala. She shared her Turkish teacher's comments about this 
dance, by which women in most Arabic countries express part of their identity. The main 
purpose of the dance was for women to enjoy themselves, rather than to perform for men, as 
most people believe. It fulfilled a similar function to that of this workshop, she said - to 
create a sense of community and contribute to the women's own development. The music 
playing in the background seemed to have changed Mara's perspective with regard to some 
of her images. For instance, she noticed that Figure 5 evoked the desert and the sensuality of 
a woman's body. 

Figures 9, 10, and 11: Trying out a new pictorial approach. 

These images were produced by Mara after the final revision of her art. She 
commented that she wanted to try out Estrella's pictorial style, which greatly inspired her 


along the way. Figures 9 and 10 introduce new motifs that suggest openings and doors, 
integrating new colors as well as new styles of brushstrokes. In Figure 1 1 , a new mandala 
under the form of a spiral suggests a movement of expansion. 

Two Years Later... 

During her participation to the art therapy workshop, Mara was saying that she was 
not yet sure she wished to live the rest of her life in Canada. By then, she was about to 
complete her third year of stay. Before taking her decision, she wanted to verify during a 
period of five years whether or not she enjoyed her life here. When I met her for the second 
interview, I asked her whether her idea in relation to her stay was any clearer, since the five 
years period had passed. She answered, "I have the impression that I still have something to 
learn in Canada, and I decided to continue living here for the moment. I often used to 
change. I believe that right now I should stay on the same road." 

At the point in the interview, Mara was living in the same village where her parents 
first arrived as new immigrants, one which has since transformed into a small town. She was 
about to complete her university degree in Art Education. Mara recounted how she bought 
another small house in the town. In the house, she created an art studio with the intention to 
offer classes, as she had done when she came back from Europe. Although she lost most of 
her former clientele due to the new location, she was determined to make efforts to create a 
new life according to her dreams. "I want to put all my energy into selling myself as a 
product," she commented. Meanwhile, she was sometimes offering creativity workshops in 
other professionals' offices and worked part- time in a small local business. 

Mara went on describing the most significant events that occurred in her life during 
the past two years. Recently, she recounted, she joined her daughter for a trip to India, 


during which she offered some greatly appreciated creativity workshops to a local 
community. This opportunity contributed to raising her professional self-confidence. 
"Perhaps people in Canada are not yet open enough for these possibilities. But maybe it 
belongs to me to create this opening in my milieu. Maybe it is my Heroine's journey to 
choose something more difficult to accomplish." Mara found that her voyage to this country 
also changed her perspective with regard to the meaning of life: "Here we are always on a 
defensive mode, whereas there, despite the difficulties, people are more content." 

Changing both her first and last names represented another major change in Mara's 
life. The event leading to this decision was the theft of her purse, which contained all her 
cards, her bank account having been emptied during the subsequent hours. "When I went to 
the police, they said, Madam, be aware that you lost your identity." As she was canceling 
and re-ordering her cards, she realized that she had many different names: Mara, the name 
printed on all her cards, was in fact a combination of the two names given by her parents and 
by her grandmother - Martha and Ann. And her last name belonged to her husband's 
family. In addition, in Switzerland people used to call her Anna, for they found that Mara 
was too foreign, too unusual. "Thus I've got used to being Anna, the woman." After the 
theft of her purse, Mara made an Internet search in order to find a new name and had Esther 
printed on all her identity cards. She explained that the choice of her new name 
corresponded with other choices she was making in her life. By now, everybody was 
already calling her Esther, she said. 

With the occasion of our second interview, Mara talked about her return home with 
much greater detail than during the workshop. The story she recounted helped her in 


completing her narrative and in making sense of the negative events of her past in a new and 

constructive way. 

When I returned to Canada, I used to live in a house built by my sister on the 
foundation of my parents' , which burned some years ago. Before their retirement, my 
parents left this house in which I spent my childhood in order to build a larger house 
with the insurance money... By then I had enough work to earn a few pennies. I 
wanted to renovate the house which was in a bad shape; my father sold it to me like 
this. Afterwards I realized that its price was far too high, but by then the house was 
already paid for, because we started paying three years before our arrival to 
Canada. We never came to see the interior of the house, because I trusted my father. 

You can understand the disappointment I felt when I arrived, as he was 
continuing to still tell me how to behave, how things were working in Canada. He 
was saying that I had to listen to him if I wanted to understand how things work 
here. He was treating me as if I were a child. I was still thinking that he had good 
intentions, but he thought, she's got money, no problem. 
Despite her anger, Mara wanted to help her father who was getting very old, but he 

was too proud to accept her help, she recounted. He preferred to commit suicide instead, 

just a few months after her arrival to Canada. 

A friend came to visit me and this made my father very angry. He went out and had a 
car accident. He survived, but he was hospitalized for a long time, he wanted to die. 
At Christmas, after going to church, he said he will come to my place after he fed the 
donkey. He fell down and broke his hips, so he went again to the hospital. We did not 


ever reconcile. I was afraid to confront him with my emotions, and himself, he was 

During our childhood, he was forcing us to do whatever he wanted by saying 
that otherwise he will commit suicide. He eventually succeeded. He returned home 
and he did exactly what he said for decades that he was going to do. 7 will do what 
Indians do, he said. When they have a problem, the Indians lie down in the snow and 
let themselves freeze. ' 

That's exactly what he did. He placed himself exactly on the path I was taking 
every morning when I was going to take care of the horses. I entered his house and 
he was not there. I was very sick myself, I was depressed and I continuously had the 
flu. I was having a nervous break down. All this was too much for me. I was by 
myself; my sisters were not helping me. My father was retiring inwards because he 
was very proud and he was ashamed, and my husband was in Europe. 
As for her husband, commented Mara, he has been seduced by the great dream of 
freedom represented by Canada; this was his dream as a child. He dreamt of working with 
Mara's parents on their lands. He wanted to have his own business and the freedom he 
associated to it. 

Our own hotel, we rented it at first, and then we bought it. It is him the rebel. Now he 
does not dare to tell anybody what we have left in Switzerland, because people find 
this too low, too simple. Although he does not like that, he says he chose it, he says 
this is good for him. He promised me that if we worked hard, one day we will sell the 
hotel and we will live at ease, and we will have enough money to not be obliged to 
work anymore. I went on believing in his promise for twenty five years, since the day 


of our marriage. They have also been raised in a manner which is similar to mine, so 
they were also repeating what they learned. He does not dare dreaming anymore. 
Having his own hotel has always been his dream, but as his plans didn 't work as he 
hoped, he does not dare dreaming anymore. He shows that he likes doing what he 
does. He accepts; he protects himself, rather than watching his emotions. 
Although in certain regards Mara envisioned her immigration story as a repetition of 

her parents,' she pointed out that today she believed in the future, in the opportunities it 

might bring about. She felt that she has freed herself from her childhood's trauma by having 

been in therapy during the last two years. She commented: 

Now, I start to understand all the abuse I had in my childhood. I was thinking that 
this was normal. I feel in peace now, I suffered a lot but I believe that one can 
change. . . I feel younger and I don 't think at my retreat at all. I have the impression 
that the retreat does not exist for me, I want to do what I love until the end of my 

Reviewing the Images 
Figure I. 

Now, when I see that I started this painting by covering the whole paper with blue 
and white, I know that in the beginning it was difficult for me to feel at ease in the 
group, because I didn 't have much self confidence. I usually prefer not to show too 
much before making sure that I'm in a secure place, that people are nice and that 
they can understand me. 

After three sessions I was already feeling very good in the group, I was 
having lots of pleasure in listening to the others, feeling that they were not strangers, 


that they understood my feelings. I was making a great effort to come into the city, I 

was very interested in this; it was becoming very important for me because it was 

giving me a lot. 

Figure 2. 

"This painting is clearer than the first. It starts with a small lake. Like in the first 
painting, I used the blue, there are three parts: the sky, the earth, and the water, and it is 
night time." 

Figure 3. 

"It is early in the morning; there is light— something starts happening." 

Figure 4. 

"Now, the earth is really illuminated by the sun. Like in the first painting - the sky is 
dark, but the earth is bathed with sunlight. It's later in the morning." 

Figure 5. 

Now, we are really in a natural environment, everything starts growing and moving, 

everything is bursting with life. I enjoy orange a lot. I had some very good 

experiences with this color. Sometimes I don 'tfeel confident enough to use it. 

Sometimes I can 't stand it, when I find it too strong; sometimes I experience it as an 

invasion of the environment. Wearing orange is like a scream, too strong, but 

sometimes I like that, why not, it's lively and joyous, but if it does not fit my mood, I 

won 't wear it. Sometimes I have no self-confidence. 
I reminded Mara the comments she made two years ago in relation to this image. They were 
related to Alicia, a Cuban woman whose exuberant temperament she would have liked to 
possess. Mara answered that today she owned the qualities represented by Alicia's 


temperament. She was aware that this aspect of her personality has been repressed for a 
longtime by her upbringing and that, as she could not live out this aspect of her character, 
she projected it onto other people. 

/ used to lack self-confidence. I was always thinking, 'this is magnificent but it is not 
for me '. But recently, I notice more and more often that this is a part of me that I 
would like to develop, and sometimes I feel very, very sad that I lived a few decades 
looking for it outside myself. It is just a question of self-confidence, of expressing my 
emotions, of being me, of finding something that was really deeply occulted in me. 

Now I start to understand that my parents were very, very alive, but because 
of all their misery they became depressed. I used to be joyful as a child, and this was 
causing them pain rather than contentment. Thus they rejected it instead of 
welcoming it. Yes. So I endorsed this attitude, the feeling that something was wrong 
with me, that I was disturbing others, and that this was unacceptable, abnormal, 
since it was making people angry. 
Figures 6 and 7. 

Mara described the process of collage in a very lively way, and compared its visual 
outcome to a "ragout," a metaphoric way of underlining that food held a great significance 
for her. She also made an association between the final result and the textures of the tissues 
she was using for sewing, another creative activity that she enjoyed in the past. 

/ adore these collages; I still have them on the wall. They still inspire me a lot. Once 
I used to sew, I used to enjoy tissues and textures. I started by choosing an orange 
sheet of paper, and then I was really surprised of how easy it was, I looked through 
the magazines and the right images, figures and actions kept drawing my attention. 


Like in real life, everything was connected. Images touch each other; that's like a 
great ragout. 

Yes, I like ragout. I enjoy the food that is well cooked, rather than the fast 
food or the raw aliments. I like the ancient methods of preparing food, the elements 
that take lots of time to cook. In Europe, it was normal to spend two hours in 
preparing a meal for the family, we were there to do that, it was not considered as 
being an inferior chore, it was something that rejoiced the whole family, and it used 
to be valued. 

In contrast, people from here eat while walking in the street; they are 
unaware of what they eat. Talking to people who use to eat fast food and cold 
aliments most of the time was really surprising for me. They eat a cooked meal 
maybe once a week and they find this normal. I find this is absurd. For me, this is 
typically Canadian or North American, let's say. People are always in a hurry, they 
have lots of things to do, but they never have time. They do this to themselves; 
they've got the feeling they have to fill their schedule with lots of things to do, all the 
time, and then, they complain they are stressed out. . . 

In relation to her two images, Mara talked about her conviction that, when one makes 
the choice of specific images to be integrated into a collage, one projects one's imagination 
into the future. Thus, the products of one's imagination eventually turn into reality. 

Now I realize that this image here (Figure 6, lower right) turned into reality. I believe 
that if we make a collage, we look for images and, after a certain time, our 
subconscious wants this to be embodied into reality. I see these women who are 


meditating: I traveled in India, and we were just like this, we were meditating like 
this, wearing Indian clothes. 

She also shared her awareness that, although her collage (Figure 6) was divided into 
two equal sides, they were both needed to make a whole. 

And also, it's good that my children are also here. Their photographs trace a sort of 
imaginary line in the middle of the collage. However, the image does not have two 
opposite sides. The two sides are in fact one and the same; they need each other. 
There are images that suggest romance, while others are dramatic; others are about 
sexuality, but very tender, nothing exaggerated or brutal. 

As for her second collage (Figure 7), she commented that it "is just about color, the 
joy of the senses, the experience of touching things, seeing colors, smelling food and 

Figure 8. 

Reviewing this significant image gave Mara the occasion to first recognize and then 
put order into the negative events that used to shape her life. The second time, she attempted 
to understand them under a new perspective and make sense of them as opportunities for 
growth. Interestingly enough, her reflections were triggered by the drawing of a mandala, 
which in itself symbolizes a union of opposites through the participation of the Transcendent 
Function the union of one's various life events into a new whole. 

It looks like a tree 's bark. It's so simple, but also so natural. And I didn 't think of 
something in particular as I was doing it. I was getting pleasure from creating 
several layers and covering them up. The short lines I drew all around the exterior 
circle, I counted them, and they were exactly 51. But I didn 't do this on purpose, it 


came by accident, it has just happened. I notice more and more often that I am 
becoming my subconscious' friend, and that I trust a lot what I am doing in a 
spontaneous manner. It 's better for me. Before, on the contrary, I was allowing my 
head to do everything. It came to me quite late. 

The fifty one lines of the mandala reminded Mara of the suicide of her father, of 
which she was still trying to make sense in relation to her own life. 

It is a little cruel to say, but my father's death sort of set me free. I was 51.... I was 
not feeling guilty for his misery anymore, but it was impossible for me as a daughter 
to not try making him happy. This was just natural for me. As incredible as it may 
seem, he didn 't want to be happy. He wanted to be sad. I've spent lots of time trying. 
Later, I did the same with my husband and also with our hotel guests. I was giving, 
doing, and then giving again, hoping that I will eventually succeed in making the 
others happy. But in the meantime, I was forgetting to look and listen to myself, to my 
own dreams. It was a sort of co-dependency. 

I believe that my father was always sad because this way he was able to keep 
his children attached to him. If ever he became happy, he would have freed us, and 
we would have taken care of our own lives instead. But this way he was able to keep 
his three daughters for him, like mistresses, always dedicating themselves in pleasing 
him. If ever he was becoming less sad, we would have had no reasons to keep this 
kind of relationship with him. It was very egotistical on his part, but narcissistic 
people are like this. I used to be very narcissistic myself, so I understand very well 
how this became possible. 


After having analyzed her relationship with her father, Mara was able to proceed in 

integrating her negative experiences into her narrative through underlining their positive 

outcome in her life. 

But now, things are about to change. We are not in this childhood condition 
anymore; now we are able to take decisions for ourselves. I'm really starting to 
appreciate both my father and my childhood. I used to be very negative before. Now, 
I realize that I suffered, but I have also received presents, among others: freedom, 
the talents that my parents passed onto me without taking advantage of them for 
themselves, curiosity, creativity, the practical spirit, and the love of nature. 

They were perhaps full of love, but their spirit has been broken by their hard 
life. They didn 't know how to express love; it was very, very sad, that they did not 
have the chance to heal themselves and find who they were. They were always at war 
with themselves, the atmosphere at home used to be so conflictive. But beneath all 
this, I'm now starting to understand the way my parents really were; they were not 
only the people I knew, but the real people beneath the expression of their sadness. 
Mara was now ready to recognize her parental moral heritage and use it for future 

growth, her capacity for doing so being facilitated by the healing process that took place 

during her thirty years of life in Switzerland. 

During the thirty years spent in Switzerland, I healed myself. It was an 
extraordinarily rich, aesthetic, calm, secure country. All was functioning well; it 
absolutely used to be the opposite of my childhood. I took these thirty years to heal 
myself, to take in new things, to nourish myself, to fill myself up with the strengths I 
needed for coming back to Canada and see what happens. 


Figure 9. 

When she looked at this image, Mara felt compelled to go deeper into the meaning 
she was attributing to different colors. She was aware that this image somehow evoked an 
attempt to reconcile opposite aspects into a whole. 

/ see doors, openings, and complementary colors: red and green, and also white. I 
actually use white a lot; I need lots of white. The white signifies recommencement; it 
stands for innocence and purity. Something is white before it has been soiled. It 
represents light and spirituality, the essence of being connected to something which 
is greater than our little personal experience, greater than our personal lives. There 
is a greater plan, a light which is so powerful that we are almost blinded by it. 

All these forms are sort of round and square, they represent man and woman. 
The green represents calmness and nature, something always positive. I like purple 
too; I like it a lot. I have lots of respect for it. I don't like painting with purple a 
whole surface. Purple works well with other colors, I find. It's a feminine color; it 
describes an older woman though, somebody who has lots of experience. It is like 
Tantra, in which one can find balance between opposites. I never use purple like this, 
just for the sake of playing, for it is a very serious color. 

I reminded her that during the art therapy workshop she mentioned her wanting to 
experiment with "Estrella's brush strokes" in this image. She answered that "Estrella's brush 
strokes" represented her "timid attempts to play a new role. I was trying to do something 
new, but I did not have lots of self confidence. But I was also playing without taking things 
too seriously, why not, playing and watching what was happening..." 


Figure 10. 

'This mandala looks as if it has been broken into pieces, thrown in the air, left in the 

water, soaked, blurred and somewhat fragmented, but still beautiful, because one can always 

look for the lost fragments and gather them together again." 
Figure 11. 

Tlie mandala in this image is not as strong as the other one (in Figure 8). From the 
point of view of the colors, it is softer and smoother. There is a lot of water in it. I 
don 't remember what I wanted to express here, through these small images. Perhaps 
I did this without intending to be too serious. 
This important image gave closure to Mara's creative process. It brought her to 

develop the meaning she attributed to the symbol of the spiral, which evoked for her 

spiritual development, a sense of purpose and futurity. 

I find it difficult to believe that it's me who did that. I see the spiral in the middle, it 
was very important, I find this funny because after the workshop I built a huge spiral 
like this in my garden. It was thirty feet large, with all kinds of rocks, and with a 
sacred place in its center. I was just about to complete it when my daughter came to 
visit me. She had tears in her eyes when she saw it. She walked throughout and said 
that she felt a great spiritual strength coming out of it, she said that it was expressive 
and moving. People didn 't dare entering it because they felt it represented something 
sacred, even secret... 

The following sequence summarizes the process of self development as envisioned by Mara: 
Perhaps the spiral stands for development, we enter it and then we leave it, but we 
are always in our own center, we can go in and find out who we are, find peace and 


then go out again and continue our lives. I notice the moons, this spiral is perhaps 
very lunar, like the moon, which grows and then goes back to zero again. The 
explosions evoke energy. I imagine that if I was going through this movement again, 
right now, they would perhaps evoke my projects. But they are rather peripheral. The 
center is more lunar. 




Theme I: Immigrant Women's Experience with Self- Identity and Exile 

The Hero's Myth, the Union of Opposites, and the Healing Process 

Healing is viewed by Jung as a as a regulatory function of the psyche that eventually 
leads to the reconciliation between opposites. According to him, the healing process gets 
activated by initiation, an inborn pattern of change and growth central to the individual's 
psychological life. Initiation leads to transformation, understood as the death of a less 
adequate condition and the rebirth to a renewed one. The healing process activates the 
Transcendent function, which mediates the union of polarities through a third possibility that 
contains both. 

The union between conscious and unconscious through the Transcendent Function is 
viewed by Jung as the core of individuality. He associates the confrontation of the ego with 
the unconscious to the quest of the Hero, which he views as a template for individuation. All 
Hero myths conform to this model, the ego's descent into the darkness of the unconscious 
being depicted as a journey into the underworld (departure). After having confronted various 
dangers (initiation), the Hero re-emerges transformed (return). 

The myth of Innana brings the Hero's journey to the territory of the feminine psyche. 
This account of the descent into the underworld of the goddess of the upper world in search 
of Ereshkigal, her dark sister, is viewed by Perera (1981) as a model for women's 
psychological initiation. According to her, the two goddesses represent opposite modes of 


being whose alternation governs the functioning of the feminine Self, and who are 
eventually reconciled through the heroine's initiation into the mysteries of her dark sister. 
The "Hybrid Identity" as Mediating Element between "Here" and "There" 
This research project is based on the assumption that the migratory process involves 
an initial fragmentation of the self, followed by a gradual reintegration of the disparate 
pieces into a new whole. Fronteau (2001) describes the experience of exile as a "pendulum 
dynamic" between opposites: inside versus outside, subjective versus objective, emotional 
versus rational, imagination versus reality, past versus present. According to this author, 
after having been deconstructed, the immigrant's identity is re-construed through the union 
of opposite elements into a new, hybrid identity. Fronteau's (2001) description recalls 
Jung's view with regard to the dynamics of personality development. According to him, 
one's individuality is negotiated through a dialectical relation between the opposites, which 
are eventually reconciled within the psyche through the participation of a third element, 
called the Transcendent Function, whose role is to create a mid-point of personality that 
contains elements of each. 

Contemporary researchers in the domain of narrative psychology have revealed the 
existence of similar processes in relation to the construction of identity. For instance, Gregg 
(2006) proposes that the cognitive organization of identity is based on the co-existence of a 
deep structure and a surface structure. Drawing from Levi-Strauss' structuralist theory of 
binary oppositions in myth, Gregg describes the deep structure as consisting of a set of 
binary oppositions that are mediated by a third element, whose function is to synthesize 
some of the features of each pole. 


As for the surface structure, Gregg (2006) suggests that read figuratively, it reveals a 
mythic story corresponding to the organization of most plot episodes in folk tales, as 
described by Propp (1968). Due to a sense of lack or to his special origins, the Hero leaves 
his or her familiar surroundings and initiates a journey leading him or her into remote lands. 
There, he is confronted with various dangers and difficulties from which he eventually 
emerges transformed and returns to his community with a "treasure" acquired through great 
suffering. This general structure is similar to Campbell's (1973) three phases of the Hero's 
journey, which I have used as a model for the analysis of the six immigrant women's 
migratory and creative processes. Gregg's (2006) use of the hero epic structure in the 
analysis of the narrative self-representation of a company vice-president recalls Jung's view 
of the Hero's journey as a template for the process of individuation. 

The immigrant's two part-cultures have been most often designated in this study as 
"here" and "there"; these two aspects appeared to me as a basic pair of opposites as far as 
the migratory process is concerned. The hybrid identity develops in a new host territory as a 
result of the merger of elements belonging to both cultures, and is both alike and different 
from the initial one. This concept alludes to a "culture in-between", a fertile space pregnant 
with potential for expansion and growth (Bhabha, 1996). The notion of hybrid identity 
clearly appears as the mediating element between the two opposites represented by here and 

Each of the case studies has uncovered some of the ways in which the six women 
related to this basic pair of opposites and eventually incorporated it into their narratives 
(Table 20). In addition to the basic polarities represented by here and there, each 
participant's story reveals a unique blend of pairs of opposites that are mediated by a third 


Before the Workshop During the Workshop i After the Workshop 






^ A 















^H BHL, 























^ HERE, 




symbolic element. The polarities displayed by the images are sometimes perfectly matching 
together. At other times they are less clearly meshed with each other, and the women have 
worked through by integrating them into a new and coherent image. This process is revealed 
particularly in their collages, in which disparate pieces are have been gathered together and 
eventually re-conciliated through the meticulous use of tempera paints. 

In his analysis of an interview with a company vice-president, Gregg (2006) notes 
that, as the story unwinds, the core opposites do not mesh very well with each other. In an 
attempt to fit them together, the "Hero" (the story teller) works through by synthesizing 
them in a "combinatorial bricolage." This concept has been defined by Levi-Strauss as a 
handyman's type of work, which is achieved through gathering together in an approximate 
manner the materials available at hand. Fundamental to postmodern thought, the notion of 
bricolage has been associated by many authors - particularly in the domain of cultural 
studies - to the manner in which identities are construed in the contemporary world. The 
approach of collage as used by the six participants of this study illustrates in a concrete 
manner Levi-Strauss' (1963) definition and its relation to the construction of identity. In 
another way, the women's imaginal narratives uncover dynamics similar to Hillman's 
definition of the "narrative of the soul," a type of biography that concerns experience, 
emotions, dreams, and visions, rather than events. Hillman describes the soul's way of 
construing its own story as a careful collage of events, which are submitted to an 
imaginative process in order to be digested. 

Delia 's Integrative Process 

Delia's narrative illustrates Sommer's (2004) description with regard to the 
immigrant's identity: "Those on the move (go) sometimes back and fourth to homes... on 


both sides [and] describe themselves as half of one identity, half of another, and half of an 
additional something else..." (p. 48). 

Delia was dreaming that one day she might be able to bridge here and there by 
adopting an in-between life style. Her wish to live six months of every year on each side has 
concrete roots in her migratory history. She left Uruguay when she was 10 and stayed for 10 
years in Quebec; at 20, she returned to her homeland for another 10 years. At the age of 30, 
Delia returned again to Quebec in her husband's company. Although during the past 3 years, 
she went back and forth twice, she considers as being established "here." 

During the art therapy workshop, Delia made great efforts in preserving the fragile 
equilibrium between here and there, incorporating her strategies into her image-making 
process. Clearly illustrated by her collages (Figures 4 and 5), they consist of (a) using humor 
as an antidote for nostalgia (b) allotting an equal space to the representation of each part- 
culture (Figure 4), and (c) using various mediating elements for bridging the two opposites, 
such as the couple and the squirrel (Figures 4, and 5). 

The sense of balance she was attempting to develop through her creative process was 
disturbed suddenly, and then radically modified by painful events that occurred during her 
last trip to Uruguay. Her husband's psychotic episode followed by his hospitalization and 
the near-death experience which she confronted as she tried to save his life, forced Delia to 
make the definitive choice of going back home to Uruguay. As she returned to Montreal 
with her husband in order to prepare her final return home, she noticed that her previous 
network was shrinking due to her husband's illness. She felt lonely and started experiencing 
some mild depressive feelings. This reality reinforced her desire to return to her family's 
support and comforting presence in Uruguay. 


On an existential level, the suffering involved in the above experiences awakened 
Delia's awareness of the fragility of being. As her dreamy and intense personality was being 
initiated into the realities of illness and death, her focus gradually shifted from the outer 
towards her inner world. As a young Heroine, she perceived the "culture-in-between" as two 
exterior, concrete, spatial elements to be conquered and eventually tamed by bridging them 
together. Her initiatory voyage to Uruguay transformed her perception of the meaning of 
life, bringing her to re-evaluate her priorities and forcing her to translate the union of 
opposites at a soul level. 

Despite the radical change involved in her decision to return to her homeland, Delia 
did not forget her project of somehow bridging her two part-cultures, although her ideas 
were transformed by the circumstances. She wanted to sponsor regular cultural exchanges 
between the two countries, a process that she has already started with the help of the two 
consulates. After having long searched for a valuable way of construing a "culture in- 
between," she became aware how difficult it was to continue "living with fragments"; she 
decided to make a definite choice that would help her to gather her scattered fragments in a 
new hybrid whole. 

Amanda 's Integrative Process 

Amanda had lived half of her life in Chile and the other half in Quebec. However, 
her life story and creative process reveal that she considers her past in her homeland as 
highly significant, whilst her life in the host country is perceived by her as devoid of 
meaning. Whereas living here became associated with negative experiences such as 
suffering, bitterness, and discontentment, living there became idealized. Amanda felt that no 
aspect in her actual environment could compensate for the loss of a homeland that she had to 


leave against her will. The degree of polarization between the two cultures eventually 
rendered them irreconcilable. Given these conditions, construing a culture in-between 
becomes an arduous task. 

With each new image, Amanda's creative process carried her away toward the 
fleeting joys of the past. Unfortunately, each return to her actual reality contributed to 
amplifying her nostalgia and making her bitterly aware of the impossibility of infusing her 
actual life with meaning. However, Amanda's last drawing (Figure 7) reflects ambivalent 
feelings with regard to the possibility of integrating her two "lives" into a hybrid new one; 
here and there co-exist, but cannot merge. It is difficult to know whether the figure 
representing Amanda is passing the threshold between two worlds - as she said during the 
workshop - or whether she is entering a "cocoon full of light" in order to protect herself, as 
she explained two years later. As a synthesis of her creative journey, Figure 8 integrates the 
red maple leaves, a symbol of Canada, with some ethnic motifs that evoke the crafts of her 

Each art therapy session participated in turning the scales in favor of "there". 
Because of the confrontation between Amanda's unconscious attempts to reconcile 
opposites, and her conscious resistance to the idea of achieving some sense of unity, she 
could benefit only partially from the healing dimension of art-making. Perhaps, as she 
mentioned during the second interview, the process was not long enough to allow her to 
work through these issues. At that time, Amanda also clearly expressed her desire to return 
to Chile at the age of 60. 


Patricia 's Integrative Process 

For Patricia, the notion of home is equivalent to family. She founded her own family 
and sponsored her parents' arrival; they are all living in the same neighborhood and are very 
close to each other. It can be said that she has recreated her culture and country in a new 
territory, an in-between culture in which the union of here and there is mediated by the 
family. Their presence in her life makes up for what Patricia once lost as she hastily left her 
homeland. She has accepted her new life with calmness and philosophy, endeavoring to 
make the best of it. She defines herself as a middle-aged woman of Chilean origins living in 

Patricia's creative process reveals her constant search for a mid-point of personality 
that can synthesize her opposite tendencies (e.g. calmness versus passion, conscious versus 
unconscious, light versus shadow), a need that she associates with being fifty. Her collage 
(Figure 4) stands for a vivid demonstration of how she has gradually proceeded to the 
bricolage of a hybrid identity; after completing the missing half of her family house in Chile 
and lighting it up from inside, she created a luxurious garden in which she has placed the 
three generations of her family in the middle. The collage conveys the sense of joy and 
growth experienced by Patricia as she was working through integrating the significant 
fragments of her life into the collage. This general feeling is reinforced by the central 
presence of the baby as symbol of the reconciliation of opposites. 

When I met Patricia for the second interview two years later, she was just arriving in 
Montreal after a trip to Chile, where she had traveled with her family. She confessed that she 
was experiencing feelings of nostalgia as well as some mild depressive feelings. The 
previous equilibrium between here and there was temporarily modified by her return to her 


homeland, and by the fact that her family prolonged its stay in Chile. These circumstances 
contributed to making her homeland appear more significant that her host country. 

Nahla 's Integrative Process 

During the first art therapy session, Nahla shared with the group her sense of not 
belonging anywhere, a feeling that manifested through depressive symptoms. She explained 
that she and her family had suffered discrimination in Egypt as members of a Catholic 
minority. On the other hand, once in Quebec, her fundamental values (e.g. generosity, sense 
of duty, helping one another) entered into collision with those promoted by the dominant 
culture (e.g. individualism and autonomy). 

This reality provoked a cleavage between here and there, which was further 
amplified by a series of persistent value conflicts in her marriage. While Nahla' s husband 
was struggling to preserve unchanged his inherited set of traditional values, Nahla was 
developing in the opposite direction. The predominant values in Quebec with regard to 
women's rights gradually brought Nahla to perceive her relationship with her husband in an 
unfavorable light, and eventually prompted her to ask for major changes. Some years ago, as 
a result of this ongoing confrontation, she left her husband for a few months. Although her 
temporary departure led to some major changes in their relationship, the value conflict 
between the two spouses remained partially unresolved. Two years later, it still persisted, 
though less intense. 

Nahla's sense of existential emptiness - which she had metaphorically expressed as a 
hole in the earth - concerns both here and there. Although she is apparently well adapted to 
the host culture, it is as if she has construed a culture in-between by default. However, her 
creative process succeeded in filling in the hole to a certain degree. Although here and there 


were not reconciled, the art-making contributed to lifting her mood. The lively experience of 
retrieving her childhood's lost paradise gave her a sense of belonging somewhere. By 
making her highly significant recollections float securely on quiet waters, close to the shore, 
Nahla ceased experiencing the void and loneliness due to absence. 

Two years later, Nahla was doing better, reporting that the "hole" was neither 
completely full, nor as empty as it used to be. Her depressive feelings were alleviated, and 
she was as invested as before in her work with immigrant families. Nahla could not identify 
to which degree her participation to the workshop contributed to stabilizing her, but recalls it 
as an unforgettable experience. 

Mara 's Integrative Process 

Although Mara's perception with regard to her two part-cultures is highly 
contrasting, she perceives their developmental role in her life as complementary. Mara spent 
her childhood and youthful years "here"; but she always wanted to live elsewhere; at twenty, 
she decided to fulfill her dream by living Canada to explore her parents' continent. She 
eventually established herself in Switzerland, where she married a national and founded her 
own family. She describes life "there" as easy, comfortable, nourishing, and harmonious, 
and the culture itself as highly aesthetic. Today, she finds that these qualities have played an 
important role in allowing her to partly heal her childhood wounds. However, she said, at 
one point she felt the need for a more challenging living style. 

In comparison, Mara perceives her life here as much more difficult. Nonetheless, she 
finds that having to strive for her life has a vivifying effect on her personality. In her eyes, 
life in Canada has many advantages, forcing her to meet new people, go back to school, 
learn how to "sell" herself, use her whole potential and in a general manner, to become more 


creative. It is only with the distance that she can appreciate the fact of having been brought 
up with little constraints on her parents' spacious lands - a childhood reality that she 
associates today with her independent, venturesome character. 

In Mara's narrative, the notions of here and there appear as complementary, rather 
than polarized. She associates her return to Canada with a need for personal expansion, and 
tends to envision her life in Switzerland as beneficent and healing. In her view, during the 
30 years she spent "there" she primarily developed her capacity to take care of others (e.g. 
children, husband, and hotel guests). "Here" she wants to take care of herself and respond to 
her personal needs of expansion on an individual level. By returning to her Canadian roots, 
she comes full circle and seizes the opportunity of looping the loop. She is not sure that she 
wants to stay here forever, and says that six years after her arrival to Canada, she is still 
ambivalent about whether her place is here or there. 

In a general manner, Mara's creative process reveals a sense of continuity, rather 
than a dramatic confrontation between polarities. She starts reconstructing her hybrid 
identity through a gradual working through of her parental wounds (her father's suicide, her 
relationship with her father, selling her father's land) and later, through a serene re- 
appropriation of significant life fragments, which she integrates into a new whole. The first 
five paintings (Figures 1 to 5) deal with the progressive replacement of a grey and cold 
atmosphere by a warm and luminous one. Her collages (Figures 6 and 7) reinforce the sense 
of warmth and liveliness by bringing together the "textures of her life." and recall the idea of 
bricolage, rather than that of a union of opposites. She uses disparate fragments to create an 
abstract but tactile composition evoking the elements that have contributed to her inner 


A sense of further expansion is conveyed by the mandala forms she explores in the 
following images. The first one (Figure 8) recalls her father's death on the one hand and her 
need for expansion on the other. The partial mandala in Figure 10 is described by Mara as 
submitted to a process of disintegration and reintegration, thus recalling the myth of the 
dying and resurrected god evoked by Marion Milner in relation to the creative process. 
According to Mara, the mandala looks as if it was "broken into pieces, thrown in the air, left 
in the water, soaked, blurred, and somewhat fragmented". However, "one can always look 
for the lost fragments and gather them together again." The last mandala (Figure 1 1) alludes 
to a process of expansion and to the birth of new possibilities. By experimenting with 
Estrella's brushstrokes, Mara "plays" with new elements and learns to integrate them into 
the newly created whole. 

Estrella 's Integrative Process 

Like Mara, Estrella seems to have already integrated "here" and "there" as past and 
present, two complementary categories situated on a continuum. There is associated with her 
childhood and youthful years. It reminds her both of the suffering inflicted by her father and 
of her deep attachment to her mother. The past has become an accepted part of her history 
and has thus been incorporated into it in a coherent manner. She speaks of her life in 
Columbia with a mixture of openness and discretion, and tends to preserve a certain mystery 
with regard to her images. 

The mediating element that helped her to conciliate her two part-cultures into a 
hybrid identity is represented by her art and by her family. Marrying a man from Quebec 
helped her to make herself at home more rapidly and offered her a great support as she was 
initiating her new life here; having children has contributed to anchoring her more firmly in 


her society of adoption. On a professional level, she was able to take advantage of the 
possibilities offered in Quebec for studying art and for developing an artistic career. 

Estrella does not compare here and there; like Mara, she completes her life story by 
accommodating both elements in a non-conflictive manner, since there represents the past, 
whilst here represents the present. This reality confers a sense of coherence and progressive 
growth to her life story. She speaks Spanish with her children in order to help them take 
advantage of both parents' origins and to provide a richer cultural background, rather than 
with the overt intention of reinforcing their identification with her Colombian culture. With 
her husband she plans to build a house close to Bogota, which would allow her to get closer 
to her family of origin from time to time. Also, she hopes that in the future she will have the 
opportunity to develop artistic projects in Columbia. However, it is here that she lives her 
life and develops her art, taking advantage of the effervescence of the artistic milieu. She 
works hard in promoting her artistic career and she is proud of her achievements. 

Although the notion of elsewhere is always present in her art, her work denotes a 
harmonious integration between here and there; she is aware of her origins and of what they 
mean for her; they are neither denied nor emphasized. She seems to have found a juste 
milieu between these two points. Estrella' s Latin American origins are perceptible in her art 
work, particularly through the vividness of her colors. Her childhood wound is often evoked 
through projects that portray violence against women. She is aware of her trauma and works 
through it as her creative projects unwind. The wound constitutes an accepted reality and she 
continues looking for ways to share it in forms that might make a change in the lives of 
others. Her existential longing for a secure shelter is approached through the symbol of the 
house, which often appears in her images. 


Estrella's creativity helps her to expand her personality. Her artistic explorations 
allow her to live with her wound, without feeling limited by it. By offering a container for 
unfettered self-expression, the art therapy process gave her the opportunity to bring 
unconscious elements into consciousness. The pair of opposites that she strived to reconcile 
during the art therapeutic process can be defined as shadow and light. Her descent into the 
depths of a terrifying underworld recalls the story of Inanna, who undertook a voyage into 
the realm of her dark sister Ereshkhigal in order to unite with her. Estrella's images reveal 
the progression of the heroine through different stages of her journey, until the final merger 
between shadow and light into a new, in-between figure. 

Negative Experiences and Coherent Self-Making 
Pals (2006) maintains that the ways in which individuals interpret the most negative 
experiences in their lives are central to their self-identity because it has the potential of 
either limiting or enhancing their personal growth. From this perspective, a person's life 
story is viewed as a self-reflective process, which involves the interpretation of certain 
experiences of the past as having a causal impact on his or her actual self-development. As 
past events are invested with meaning in the present, a sense of coherence is created within 
the life story, which in turn enhances the process of self-making. 

Depending on how life's most negative events are interpreted, they can either 
endanger the coherence of self or promote resilience, growth, and transformation. The 
second possibility is achieved through a narrative "springboard effect" that implies two 
steps: (a) the person overtly acknowledges the negative event, and (b) the person interprets 
the negative event in a way that leads to seeing the self as positively transformed through its 


impact. Pals (2006) identifies three different interpretive strategies of negative events in 

one's life that will either expand or limit the self. 

Positive versus Negative: A Strategy that Leads to Narrowing the Self 

The narrator interprets negative experiences as threatening the positive aspects of 
self. Consequently, he or she avoids acknowledging them and their negative impact on his or 
her life in order to avoid suffering. By minimizing the part of one's self that has been 
threatened, he or she cannot use it as a springboard for self-development, thus limiting the 
opportunities for growth. The negative becomes separated from the positive, and one 
defines oneself narrower as a result. No woman in the purposive sample selected for this 
research avoided discussing significant negative events in her life. 
Positive to Positive, Negative to Negative: The Compartmentalization of Self 

With this solution, a person's life story gets separated into two coherent 
compartments, one containing the positive impact of positive experiences and the other, the 
negative impact of negative experiences on the self. This cleavage reinforces one's 
resistance to analyzing and resolving negative emotions. The maintenance of a 
compartmentalized self prevents the construction of a coherent narrative, and limits the 
narrator's potential for healing and growth. 

For instance, Nahla 's "negative to negative" strategy consists of interpreting the 
discrimination she suffered in her country as the source of her actual sense of void. She 
considers this negative experience as having made her feel that she does not belong 
anywhere: "I don't fit anywhere, whether in the past, present, or future," she wrote on her 
first drawing (Figure 1). Nahla shares that she feels like a minority everywhere, and that this 
reality limits her capacity to fully adapt to her host culture 


On the other hand, the "positive to positive" strategy was used by Nahla as she came 
into contact with childhood recollections that reminded her of the warmth and envelopment 
she used to experience with her extended family in Egypt. These happy memories from the 
past had an impact on the way she felt in the present, giving her a sense of inner freedom 
and the certitude of belonging somewhere. 

Amanda's life story and creative process brings into light a self-making strategy 
somewhat similar to Nahla' s. As a refugee, she had to leave Chile against her will. This 
painful event contributed to cleaving her perception of her two part-cultures into positive 
and negative; the homeland is idealized and invested with the most positive qualities (e.g. 
helping one another, warmth, more satisfying social relationships, feeling at home), while 
the host culture is perceived as reuniting several negative aspects (coldness, individualism, 
loneliness, lack of equal rights for everybody). 

Amanda adopts a "negative to negative" strategy, since she cannot use the positive 
qualities she experiences in relation to her home country in enhancing her life in the host 
country. The radical split between the two makes it impossible to accept her life "here"; this 
cleavage limits her capacity for healing and growth and prevents her from creating 
coherence within her life story. Her identity becomes compartmentalized and the two parts 
can not communicate with one another. In these conditions, coming from elsewhere thus 
becomes a severe handicap that can hardly be surmounted. 

Amanda's creative process facilitated her reconnection with positive youth 
memories, which momentarily triggered her positive feelings of pleasure and joy, an 
emotional reality that results from her "positive to positive" strategy. However, whereas in 
Nahla' s case, a similar occurrence resulted in a sense of inner freedom, for Amanda it had 


just the opposite effect. Experiencing positive feelings with regard to her past contributed to 
reinforcing her nostalgia and distress, as she compared the happiness she used to experience 
in the past to the reality of her actual life in Quebec. Thus, the positive event leads to a 
negative outcome. 

"I still look back to the past. I work here, I live here, but I still cast the same glance 
over the past." Amanda's will to keep her past memories unchanged, contributed to 
accentuating the polarization between negative and positive. Faced with the pain resulting 
from the separation between here and there, her reflex has been to metaphorically enter "a 
cocoon full of light" in which to feel protected (Figure 7). During her creative process, she 
appeared to make several unconscious attempts to integrate the two parts of herself, 
noticeable in her images (Figures 5, 7, and 8) as a tendency to bring them together in the 
same support. At certain moments, she had glimpses of what her life would be like if she 
was able to integrate her past into her present life: "This is me! I'm content for some short 
moments and, when it happens, I thank life for what it gave me. But I'm certain that I will 
be much happier there." At each attempt to reconcile here and there, her conscious side 
seemed to present a strong resistance that systematically thwarted her unconscious' healing 

There are two countries, two sides, and myself in the middle. For me, it always has 
been this way.... I had the wish to be in a cocoon because I wanted to feel protected 
in it, far from all this. Maybe we pushed ourselves too much in wanting to define 
what we have lived here and there. I wanted to protect myself because all this was 
hurting me. On the side of Chile there is sun and, curiously enough, although I don 't 


really know how to draw, I drew my arm pointing toward Chile. It was unconscious. 

It was enough, it was too much. I wanted closure. 

Despite the compartmentalization of the self imposed by the split between negative 
and positive, both Nahla and Amanda adopted a "negative to positive" strategy by 
demonstrating an ability to transform their distressing experiences as immigrants into 
positive self-development on a professional level. Both eventually became social workers 
and involved themselves in work with immigrants, thus sharing what they had learned in the 
process with other people in need of support, making a difference in the lives of others. 
While Nahla has dedicated herself to working with immigrant families, Amanda has become 
an activist for the rights of refugees, particularly of immigrant women victims of violence. 
Negative to Positive, and the Transformation of the Self 

According to Pals (2006), the life story of a person who uses the negative to positive 
strategy is centered on the exploration of his or her most negative experiences and of their 
impact of the development of self. This constructive approach creates a 'springboard effect' 
of positive self-transformation, which leads to the integration of both negative and positive 
into a coherent narrative. The author points out that, recognized and interpreted 
constructively, one's greatest difficulties contribute to reinforcing one's identity, and 
generate new and meaningful life goals and personal values. 

In her research on the "springboard effect," Pals (2006) demonstrates how the 
negative gets transformed into positive through the example of a man who uses the insight 
gained from a threatening past experience to help other people who experienced a similar 
event. Through the narrative interpretation of his experience, he integrates the threatening 
event of having been abused as a child into a coherent pattern of growth, which redeems his 


life. He thus succeeds in transferring his sense of transformation by the negative past event 
into further experiences. The life narratives of a few immigrant women in the purposive 
sample display this redemptive pattern. 

Patricia left Chile as a refugee after Pinochet's coming into power. She interprets 
her having to leave her homeland hastily as an opportunity for founding her own family and 
helping her parents to leave a dictatorial country. Surrounded by her family, which she 
considers as her "real" country, she was able to make herself at home in the host culture and 
take advantage of its positive aspects. Without denying either her attachment for her youth's 
environment or her Chilean values, she has endeavored to seek a mid-point between here 
and there and construe a hybrid self on new lands. Despite the difficulties she has 
experienced over time, and even though she sometimes still feels nostalgic, Patricia came to 
appreciate her life in her country of adoption and, in general, she tends to perceive her 
situation as an immigrant in quite a favorable light. 

Delia's story reveals a similar "negative to positive" strategy. During the interview 
that took place two years after the workshop, she interpreted the painful events she 
experienced in relation to her husband during her last trip to Uruguay as having had a 
determining positive impact on her life. She felt that her husband's illness and their near- 
death experience shifted her attention from her outer life to her inner needs. On the one 
hand, she became more aware of the fragility of being, but on the other, she came in to 
contact with her own inner strength, which had been reinforced by the negative event. 

Now I can see how much I have suffered. . . I have lost some things on the road, but I 
have gained others... It is my heart that takes now lots of space, which has expanded, 
and now, all these things hold inside. This is because I have discovered my strength. 


/ have discovered myself through suffering, through hardship. And now I'm in the 
possession of my own means, and I love myself much more than before; I have fallen 
in love with myself, not in a narcissistic sense, but concretely, knowing that I can do 
concrete things. This has empowered me. Maybe people look at me and think that my 
life has nothing special. But it gives me the strength to return to my country and I'm 
going to create my work, my own place. ...It continues to be true that 'I'm here to 
stay. ' But today, this signifies that I stay within my own life. I have eventually 
succeeded in inhabiting myself, I own myself... Instead of waiting for the exterior 
events to shape my life, I commenced a process of owning my self... This experience 
has started a process of conquering my own self. 

She took action by abandoning her ideal dream of living in-between two countries 
and made a definite choice to return to Uruguay, where she and her husband can benefit 
from the loving support of their families and friends. Living in-between two countries not my ideal anymore, because I have changed, and really, my ideal is to find 
stability. I know that, as far as I'm concerned, I will never be able to find it here... 
Before, I was feeling split into two pieces. Now I don 'tfeel it so much anymore, 
because I took a decision and this gave me a stability and tranquility of spirit that I 
have never known before. Before... I wasn 't whole... I was divided into fragments... I 
don 't want to go dreaming of the future anymore. Life is precarious. We never know 
when we will die or become ill... For me, there is a 'before' and an 'after' It 
represents a change in my perception of life. 

The threatening experience also transformed Delia's perception of art; instead of 
continuing to subscribe to the formula "art for the art's sake" she has become interested in 


the healing dimension of the creative process. While her husband was hospitalized, she had 
the idea of offering patients on his ward the opportunity to express themselves through 
artistic means, which they greatly appreciated. She thus was able to use her own learning 
during the art therapy workshop to bring others some relief from their suffering. Her 
decision to return to her homeland is accompanied by new artistic projects through which 
she intends to create a bridge between the two cultures. 

/ decided to bring with me the best things I have encountered here: the art, the 
knowledge, all that I have learned here. As you said earlier, I will bring something 
back to my community. As far as I'm concerned, I will bring myself, but transformed. 
I know that I will go on transforming, but I don 't know what form this will take. 
Like Delia, Mara interprets both her childhood wounds and the distress experienced 
when she returned to Canada as opportunities for growth, which eventually inspired her to 
develop new projects and personal values. During the second interview, after having 
described with great detail the disturbing conditions of her arrival to Canada, her father's 
suicide, and how her couple relationship has been affected by moving "here", she expressed 
that today, she now feels transformed and confident in her future. After having thoroughly 
analyzed her situation, she concluded: 

Now, I start to understand all the abuse I have experienced during my childhood. I 
was thinking that it was normal. I feel at peace now, I have suffered a lot, but I 
believe that one can change. . . I feel younger and I don 't think about my retreat at all. 
I have the impression that the retreat does not exist for me, I want to do what I want 
'till the end of my days. 
After acknowledging her sadness with regard to her childhood wounds, Mara 


re-interpreted her parents' educational style as a consequence of the difficulties they had to 
overcome as immigrants, and as a result she started feeling empathy for them. 

Now, things are about to change. We are not in this childhood condition anymore; 
now we are able to take decisions for ourselves. I'm really starting to appreciate both 
my father and my childhood. I used to be very negative before. Now, I realize that I 
have suffered, but I have also received presents, amongst others: freedom, the talents 
that my parents passed onto me without being able to take advantage of them for 
themselves, curiosity, creativity, a practical spirit, a love for nature. They were 
perhaps full of love, but their spirit had been broken by their hard life... But beneath 
all this, I'm now starting to understand the way my parents really were; they were not 
only the people I knew, but the real people beneath the expression of their sadness. 
Estrella's story provides another example of the redemptive power of acknowledging 
and exploring a painful moment of the past, followed by its constructive integration into 
one's actual life. In addition, her narrative offers a concrete testimony to the capacity of art 
to transform the lives of those who, through their creative work, dare to honestly face their 
suffering until it becomes distilled into a larger oncological reflection about human 
existence. Estrella's abuse by her father eventually became the motor of her art. 

My father was very religious, but in the meantime he was getting drunk, he was 
beating us and my mother, he was abusing us... I was feeling very small and lonely 
in all this. .. I have my own wounds, but I also want to talk about the others ' wounds. 
Sometimes I speak about dramas that are not mine, but which have become mine. It 
moves other people, who can also identify with them on a personal level. In these 
images I approach the topic of identity, yes, but also that of death. I don't 


necessarily speak of physical death, but about its aspects that can be found in 
loneliness, exile, absence, abandonment, all of which refer to a certain kind of death. 
When you are abused, you somehow die. When you are unhappy, you also die a little 

In addition to contributing to healing her own wounds, Estrella's wound eventually 
turned into the vehicle of her discourse with regard to the violence perpetrated on women in 
the world. Thus, her own distress started resonating with that of other people having 
undergone similar experiences, bringing the hardly acquired "treasure" to the larger 
community of women. 

/ used the spiral as a symbol of the infinite, of life, which doesn 't stop, which goes 
on. But in the meantime, there is death. All these women were dead, death is a spiral 
with no end in it; one would like to stop it, but the violence does not stop. In that 
installation I used the spiral as a symbol of both life and death, of the infinite, of a 
time that never stops. For me, time is memory, what remains of us, the memories that 
we should not forget, because if we forget, everything is over. If we remember, 
nothing stops. 

Theme 2: Aesthetic Experience and Healing 
Healing and the Union of Opposites 
For Davila (1991), art is clinically efficient because it draws on our imagination and 
its capacity for fiction. Indeed, as demonstrated from a neuropsychological perspective by 
Robertson (2002), the emotional content of the images we create in our mind can either heal 
us or make us sick. I have always been convinced that in terms of healing, the aesthetic 
outcome of the art therapeutic process was as important as the process itself. 


At first, my conviction was based on my own experience as an artist; later it was 
reinforced throughout the art therapy and creativity workshops that I have lead over the 
years. However, I still could not explain the relation between aesthetic experience and 
healing. As I was researching the literature for this study, I encountered various authors 
whose writings offered a theoretical support for my experiential knowledge. I thus came to 
the conclusion that the healing quality of the aesthetic experience is conferred by the 
reconciliation of opposites, a motif that connects the artistic activity to the process of 

Davila (1991) describes "health" as the person's ability to hold together 
contradictions and eventually synthesize them, a definition which is consistent with Jung's 
view of healing as a union of polarities within the psyche. As mentioned in the previous 
section, Gregg's (2006) and Pals' (2006) studies in narrative psychology demonstrate that 
the coherence of the self is construed by working through binary opposites in the personality 
or by interpreting in a positive manner negative experiences in one's life. 

As pointed out by Dewey (1980), the aesthetic experience assembles, orders, and 
synthesizes the artist's scattered life experiences, ideas, and emotions into a new unity. This 
function is fulfilled through connecting the outer (art) materials to inner (psychic) elements 
as the artist works on his or her canvas. Situated at mid-way between too much emotion 
(leading to disorder, lack of balance and proportion) and too little (insufficient, coldly 
correct), the right degree of emotional expression characterizes the aesthetic quality of a 
successful artwork, writes Dewey. Hillman (2005) also considers the image as a container of 
opposites. Its capacity of bringing together such polarities as inner and outer, body and 
mind, conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine, underlines the similarity 


between artistic process and individuation. Both heal fragmentation and lead to a greater 
coherence of the self. 

The Collage, a High Point in Immigrant Women 's 
Aesthetic Experience and Mediator of Opposites 

The collage has the capacity to communicate the artist's reality in both a direct and a 
synthetic manner. In line with the postmodern notion of bricolage, it assembles multiple 
points of view into a coherent whole by using the materials at hand; it brings together 
various moments in time and multiple space locations into a Active universe that is complete 
in itself. The medium of collage has been privileged by numerous professional immigrant 
artists; as one of the main stylistic features of postmodernism, the notion of collage is of 
poignant actuality today, being used by many authors to recount the construction of 
contemporary identities. 

In the art therapy workshops created for this study, I had no specific intention of 
concentrating on collage. I initially envisioned it as one medium among several others, 
which I intended to offer at each session as possible ways of experimenting with new 
materials. However, most women's art therapeutic processes eventually culminated with a 
deep investment in creating one or more significant collages, on which they worked for two 
or even three sessions out of eight. 

I thus came to the realization that the medium of collage was being invested with 
such intensity because it parallels the process of construing identity. As Dewey (1980) 
wrote, the aesthetic experience fulfills the function of bringing together the artist's disparate 
life experiences and eventually leads to establishing a congruent relation between psychic 
occurrences and the artistic outcome. Through collage, the immigrant women had the 


opportunity to assemble significant fragments of their life experiences into synthetic 
narratives. Using ready-made images from either magazines or from their personal lives 
(photographs, fragments of letters, or journals) gave them a sense of having control over 
their creative processes. This advantage is not offered readily by other visual media, which 
typically require some more experience and technical skills to conform to the artist's will. 
The concreteness of the collage allowed the participants to concentrate on what really 
mattered to them without being blocked by the resistance of the materials. 

This realization was facilitated by the fact that I had a similar experience with 
collage. Although I dedicated many years to exploring painting, my accidental re-discovery 
of collage brought me to a deeper involvement with this medium during the two years that 
preceded this study. With distance, I understood that my reason for making a place for this 
approach in my creative work was similar to the other women's; it has helped me to 
synthesize my life experiences from a new perspective. I thus discovered an inexhaustible 
well of possibilities for creating meaningful images. 

My interest in the aesthetic outcome of the creative process was somehow 
communicated to the participants without my having to make any specific requirements, for 
such an approach would have blocked, rather than enhanced their creativity. Taking two 
minutes in the beginning of the session to demonstrate the possibilities of collage and the 
technique of integrating together photographs and paints proved to be sufficient for creating 
the initial impulse for the women to undertake this intense process. A second factor greatly 
contributed to triggering this experience; each participant was allowed to take all the time 
she needed for the aesthetic elaboration of her images. I had to continually readjust my 


initial plans to what was concretely happening during the sessions, taking into account the 
difference between the participants with respect to their work rhythms. 

Each woman had a unique approach to her images. The participants' efforts in 
improving and embellishing their collages recall Dissanayake's ( 2002) notion of "making 
special" viewed as a fundamental human need - as a survival instinct akin to play. Most 
women drew obvious satisfaction and pride from creating an aesthetically pleasing artwork. 
Hillman (2005) notes that for its survival, the soul needs to create images that are not only 
useful but also poetical; alluding to the primordial role played by the images in the psyche, 
he cites the poet Wallace Stevens's remark that the image is "an essential poem in the heart 
of things." 

Theme 3: Creative Process and Healing 
Integrating Fragments into a New Whole: Ehrenzweig's Model of Creativity 

Drawing from Melanie Klein's and Marion Milner's theories, Ehrenzweig (1967) 
conceived an analytic template for understanding the creative process in its integrative, 
healing dimension. Klein's (1988) projective theory describes the first stage of the infant's 
development as the projection of scattered psychic elements, which are experienced by the 
baby as dangerous and persecutory, into the mother, who "digests" them and renders them 
back to her child in a more integrated and acceptable form. In Klein's view, all good human 
relationships follow a similar pattern, which involves the person's willingness to accept the 
other's projection of his or her dispersed fragments and make them her own. Through her 
research in the domain of creativity, the analyst Marion Milner (Field, 1987) has found that 
Klein's view of a good mother-baby relationship is similar to the connection between the 
artist and his or her work. 


According to Ehrenzweig's model, the artistic process, such as that experienced by a 
professional painter, consists of several repetitive cycles, each new cycle bringing the work 
onto a higher level of inner and outer coherence. Ehrenzweig's (1967) creative sequence is 
composed of three different parts: (a) the "schizoid phase" (b) the "manic phase," and (c) the 
"depressive phase." Their successive resolution leads to a "hidden order of art", which is 
progressively achieved through the creation of new linkages between disparate fragments; 
this integrative process, which takes place both within the painting and the artist's psyche, is 
compared by the author to the secondary revision of a dream. 

The "schizoid phase" is experienced by the artist as an initial projection of his 
unconscious scattered material into the painting. The successful working through of this 
stage depends on the artist's ability to tolerate the anxiety resulting from the initial 
fragmentation of the surface. 

Ehrenzweig (1967) describes the "manic phase" as a "return to the womb"; he 
postulates the existence of a death wish, which is expressed through the ego's descent into 
the unconscious in search of the original experience of wholeness and fusion with the 
mother. The descent is motivated by the desire to be enveloped by an "oceanic feeling." The 
dominant theme of this stage has been described by Marion Milner (1994) through Frazer's 
mythological motif of the dying and resurrecting god: the mother kills her son and scatters 
his body parts; she later puts them back together and buries them in order to insure rebirth. 
In concrete terms, the ego's descent into the unconscious leads to the eventual integration of 
the previously split-off material into a more coherent whole, and implies a shift from 
conscious focusing to what the author calls "unconscious scanning." 


The "depressive phase" leads to the reintegration of the work's hidden substructure 
on a higher level, through a process akin to the secondary revision of a dream. As the final 
result can not ever fit the artist's initial inspiration, this stage unavoidably triggers feelings 
of pain, anxiety, and doubt. The artist's eventual acceptance of the imperfect outcome of the 
work is usually followed by a desire to reach a higher level of integration, which leads him 
or her to initiate a new cycle of creativity. The artist plunges again into the depth of the 
unconscious and eventually returns to the surface with new insights. 

According to Ehrenzweig (1967), the strength of an artwork is directly proportional 
to its capacity to convey both the "manic" and the "depressive" levels of the artist's 
experience. The pendulum movement between the artist's manic and depressive feelings can 
be understood as the alternation between the ego's descent into the unconscious and its 
subsequent ascent with new elements fetched from the depths. These two poles are 
translated by the author as the life and death instincts, their dialectical relation being 
essential to the health of the ego on the one hand, and to the final outcome of the art work on 
the other. 

The Integrative Dimension of the Art Therapeutic Process 

The creative process in art therapy rarely possesses the complexity of a professional 
artistic work. The artist's research, technical skills, and experience, which he or she has 
developed over the years, allow for the repetition of the creative cycle described by 
Ehrenzweig as long as necessary for the art object to reach a certain degree of completion. 
The three phases of creativity can be nonetheless identified in the six participants' images, 
viewed in their continuity as a series. Hillman (2005) points out that when the conscious 
mind participates actively in the image-making process, each subsequent image represents 


an enlargement of the previous one and begins on a higher level of integration, thus 
conferring a sense of coherence to the whole series. On the other hand, the collages 
produced by the women were invested with such intensity that their process can also be 
described by Ehrenzweig's model. 

The Series of Images Viewed from the Perspective of Ehrenzweig 's Model 

For Jung (1972), a series of images starts with the symbol of a "journey to Hades," 
an initiatory descent from the upper world into the underworld. However, as far as the 
creative process experienced by the participants in this study is concerned, I view the 
"initiation" phase as a mid-point between the "departure" (which I named "before the 
collage"), and the "return" ("after the collage"). During the collage-making, most women 
were initiated to some degree into the hidden landscapes of their unconscious worlds, this 
experience corresponding, in general terms, to Ehrenzweig's "manic phase." Because of its 
greater complexity, the collage-making can be viewed as comprising in itself the three 
phases of creativity (which will be further developed in the following section). On the other 
hand, the collage-making can also be regarded as the main stage of the serial process that 
took place during the workshop. Regarded as part of a series of images, the experience of 
collage can be identified as the "descent." 

As for the images created before the collage, I envision them as representative of the 
"schizoid phase." Described in Ehrenzweig's terms, the sense of lack that motivates the 
Heroine's departure may be an initial sense of fragmentation that generates anxiety. In order 
to become capable of undertaking the creative journey, the artist must at first be able to 
tolerate their anxious feelings. From this perspective, the women's first images can be 
regarded as the projection onto the paper of scattered experiences that played a significant 


role in the women's life stories. These images were a "warm up" of some sorts, which 
fulfilled the function of preparing the protagonists for the descent. The initial "lack" 
expressed as fragmentation represents "the call for adventure" to which the ego responds by 
plunging into the depths of the unconscious in search of the oceanic envelopment that can 
only by provided by the maternal womb. In these images, the "call" may be represented by 
an opening into the earth (Nahla), a small lake, or the image of the ocean (Nahla, Patricia, 
Amanda, Mara), the presence of a shadow which is identified as an "absence" (Estrella), or 
by a sea journey (Delia). 

The phase of "return" regroups the images created by the participants after the 
collage. In addition to synthesizing the women's creative processes, these images show 
symbolic evidence that a new cycle of creativity is ready to be initiated; symbols of 
wholeness such as the mandala, the child, and the fetus appear in the images by Mara, 
Patricia, and Amanda. Amanda literally recreated the symbol of the womb (she is depicted 
enclosed in an egg of some sorts), which she perceives as a protection against her inner 
suffering. In Estrella's images, the union of opposites is represented by a gradual merger of 
shadow and light into a new figure which, in addition to black and white, also contains other 
colors. In Nahla's last images, a temporary sense of resolution is expressed through a desire 
to soar towards new heights, while in Delia's, all the previous colors converge towards a 
center on which she steps resolutely. 

I associate the Heroine's "return" to Ehrenzweig's (1967) "depressive phase" during 
which the ego ascends to the surface with new insights. According to the author, this phase 
requires the artist's humble acceptance of a less than perfect reality, and may eventually 
incite her to initiate a new cycle of creativity. Unfortunately, the last images also mark the 


end of the workshop, so this hypothesis cannot be verified. Unlike the work of the 
professional artist, which is not restricted by time, the number of sessions is usually limited 
in art therapy. If the women had been offered the opportunity, most would have initiated 
another cycle, which would have led them deeper into the process. 
The Process of Collage-Making Viewed from the Perspective ofEhrenzweig's Model 

A majority of women identified their collage work as their most profound experience 
during the art therapeutic process. The collages they have created illustrate Ehrenzweig's 
model as follows: 
The schizoid phase: The projection of artist's unconscious material into the artwork. 

In an intuitive manner, the participants identify fragments of their life experiences as 
they turn over pages of magazines; their attention is attracted at random by images they 
recognize as significant to them. Another selective process is carried out as they place the 
images on the paper and try out different possibilities of relating them to each other. Will 
they succeed in linking together all these disparate elements? In order to pass to the 
following phase, they must be able to tolerate the lack of certitude resulting from the 
necessity of deferring the answer to this question. Although the initial "chaos" with which 
they are confronted may awaken the artists' anxiety, they must continue searching for 
solutions and keep on experimenting with various configurations. 

The manic phase: The shift from conscious focusing to unconscious scanning. 

During this stage, the ego's "return to the womb" results in the integration of 
previously split-off elements into a more coherent whole. Fragments of magazine images 
and personal photographs are collated together in accordance to each artist's inner vision. 
After having been glued on paper, the apparently disparate pieces are gradually connected 


together through a variety of painting procedures. Layer after layer, this somewhat 
meticulous approach goes on, refining the linkages between elements through a progression 
from the rougher to the subtler. 

The unctuous quality of the tempera paint and the slowness imposed upon the artist 
by this type of work seem to contribute to shifting her focus from the concreteness of the 
photographs to the undifferentiated mode of perception required by the unconscious 
scanning. The use of paints appears to induce a sense of "oceanic envelopment," such as 
described by Ehrenzweig (1967); as the brush slides amongst the images, the person is 
carried away toward forgotten memories, or thoughts and feelings of which she was 
previously unaware. The experience is perhaps enhanced through the use of personal 
photographs, pieces of journal, letters, and other memorabilia. 

Another important factor that plays a role during this phase is time. The process 
requires patience; one must tolerate temporary chaos and fragmentation before achieving 
what Ehrenzweig calls the "hidden order of art", which results in the integration of dispersed 
elements into a more coherent whole. The nature of the work forces the artist to delay the 
moment when she will declare that the image is "completed." 

The process described above is mirrored in the dreamlike quality of Delia's first 
collage (Figure 3), although she used pastels rather than paint in creating connections 
between fragments. Nahla's experience with collage made her travel through inner zones of 
turbulence (clouded sky, threatening ocean) before getting her memories of her childhood's 
lost paradise to float safely on quiet waters under a serene sky; they appear to have been 
brought up from the depth of the ocean through great hardship (Figure 5). Amanda 
confessed that during the collage-making process, she was carried away by the recollections 


of her youth to the point of finding the return to reality extremely difficult. In one of her 
collages (Figure 5), half of her family, (including herself), is sheltered by a sea plant that 
seems to live under the water. 

In contrast to the images described above, which seem to allude to Ehrenzweig's 
oceanic envelopment, Estrella's collage (Figure 5) appears to represent a genuine descent 
into the underworld, where she is initiated into deep suffering. This complex image evokes 
either the realm of Hades or the realm of Innana's dark sister Ereshkigal; it also recalls the 
motif of dismemberment (Frazer's motif of the dying and resurrecting god) as mentioned by 
Marion Milner in relation to the manic phase. 

Patricia R expresses the bliss of her "return to the womb" under the form of a 
luxurious and welcoming garden, in the middle of which her united family jumps for joy 
(Figure 4). Although Mara did not use paint in her collage, she connects her fragments of 
images to one another according to their colors and textures (Figures 6, and 7). By doing so, 
she re-experiences the nourishing and sensuous elements that give meaning to her life, thus 
evoking a return to a symbolic womb. However, unlike the other women's collages, hers 
makes obvious the fact that her newly obtained whole is made out of pieces found at random 
and glued either one next to the other or superimposed. 

The depressive phase: The re-integration of the work's hidden substructure on a 

higher level. 

This phase implies the acceptance of the imperfect quality of the work, which is 
accompanied by depressive feelings, and eventually leads to initiating a new cycle of 
creativity. The final result of Delia's third collage (Figure 5) illustrates how she has worked 
through pairs of opposites (here and there, warm and cold, rational and emotional), 


eventually succeeding in integrating them into a new image. Her last image (Figure 8) is 
another example of how she brings the different facets of her identity (represented by the 
colors) to converge towards a central point. As for Nahla, after having confronted numerous 
inner dangers before returning to the surface with the treasure of her childhood memories, 
she is eventually able to stabilize the house-boat which is now floating on a quiet sea. The 
image as a whole has a fascinating quality of coherence and depth that was difficult to win. 
Patricia's collage exults in the satisfaction of having succeeded in integrating polarities into 
a new landscape in-between. 

In her main collage (Figure 5), Estrella has created a gray sky above the underworld 
where the sacrifice is taking place. This representation of the upper world establishes certain 
equilibrium within the terrifying underworld; it evokes the possibility of return, emphasized 
by the presence of the rooster, which announces the coming of a new day. 

Amanda's collages (Figures 5 and 6) integrate disparate elements into the same 
image, but she has difficulty creating coherence within her collages; the meeting point 
between the different parts remains visible and the opposites remain in the same position 
allotted to them in the beginning of the process. Although the meeting point between 
fragments is also visible in Mara's collages (Figures 6 and 7), she succeeds in linking them 
together by means of rhythm, colors, and textures; her approach results in a harmonious 


This arts-based phenomenological research approached both exile and artistic 
creation from the perspective of the Hero's journey, considered by Jung as a template for 
individuation. A feminine variation on the Hero's myth - the tale of Innana, the Goddess of 
the upper world who descended into the underworld to meet her shadowy sister - has been 
evoked in relation to women's migratory and creative processes envisioned as an 
individuation journey. This archetypal and mythological perspective brought me to associate 
Jung's description of how an individual achieves his or her authentic singularity of 
personality to the concept of narrative identity, which refers to the stories people construct 
and tell about themselves to define who they are. The data analysis revealed a similarity 
between individuation and narrative identity, since the main purpose of both is the union of 
polarities within the psyche. 

Under the form of both images and words, narrative story-telling has been used as 
main approach for collecting data on the one hand, and as a tool for constructing identity on 
the other. Organizing the data obtained through interviews and art therapy workshops into 
"chronological" and "imaginal" narratives, and then into case studies, permitted me to 
understand the ways in which recounting one's life story may result in personal growth. The 
six women's creative processes uncovered not only their perceptions of their identities and 
migratory journeys, but also the ways in which they effected psychological changes, which 
eventually transformed their deeper sense of who they are. Having access to the images they 
produced permitted me to have a glimpse into the unconscious processes that took place 


during their creative work, and to envision the art therapeutic process as an imaged form of 
narrative story-telling, which supports the construction of identity. 

The six case studies introduced in Analysis Part I (Table 1) answered the research 
question 1, which was concerned with the immigrant woman's perception of self-identity 
and exile, and more specifically to questions 1 .a: "What story do they tell about their 
migratory process?", and 1 .b: "How does their art therapeutic process reflect their 
perceptions, and what meanings do they ascribe to their experiences?" The section entitled 
"Analysis Part II", "Theme I" dealt with the questions l.c: "What are the main aspects of 
women's experiences with self-identity and exile, and how do they participate in the 
construction of their identities?", and 2: "What is the contribution of art therapy to the 
immigrant woman's integration of the experience of self-identity and exile?" "Theme If" 
attempted to answer the question 2. a, concerned with the relation between aesthetic 
experience and healing, and "Theme III", the question 2.b, concerned with the relation 
between the creative process and healing. 

The exploration of the three themes led to the conclusion that the dialectic relations 
between various pairs of opposites existing in the psyche represents the vehicle of self- 
making, and that the reconciliation of the polarities in the psyche into a third, and more 
complete entity, could be associated with the notion of healing. In addition to the union of 
opposites, the healing process - as understood in this study - also includes the integration of 
other disparate fragments of experiences (that are not necessarily opposites) into a new and 
more evolved whole. 

One of the main pair of opposites that has been examined through "Theme I" is 
represented by the two "part"cultures (Bhabha, 1996) that form women's migratory 


background. In this study, they have been named "here" and "there", their reconciliation 
leading to the construction of a "hybrid identity" (Bhabha, 1996). The polarities represented 
by "negative" and "positive" form another dual relationship that plays an important role in 
ensuring self-coherence and psychological growth. Transforming negative into positive 
through a constructive interpretation of difficult past events represents a mature strategy that 
has a transformative effect on the narrator's personality (Pals, 2006). 

The pair of opposites represented by "nostalgia" and "belonging" plays an important 
role as well in the six immigrant women's adaptation to the host-culture; the case studies 
revealed that, when one of these opposites was strongly experienced, the other diminished in 
a proportional measure. For example, a strong feeling of loss appeared to be incompatible 
with the woman's enjoyment of her present situation and therefore, with her capacity to 
develop a sense of belonging to the host culture. Kaplan (2000) notes that in the Euro- 
American discourse about exile, nostalgia for past, home, or for one's mother-tongue is 
evoked as the experience of something familiar that has been lost. She throws a critical light 
on these theoretical constructions, which maintain that "such nostalgia is rooted in the 
notion that it is 'natural' to be at 'home,' and (that) separation from location can never be 
assuaged by anything but return" (p.33). Although the author seems to view these theories as 
artificial constructions, the expression of nostalgia related to the loss of their homelands can 
be found in the stories told by many of the immigrant women who participated to this study. 

The relation between the union of polarities and the healing process is also the main 
object of exploration in "Themes II, and III," two sections that tackle the healing dimension 
of art therapy, and its contribution to the immigrant women's construction of identity. 
Themes II and III reveal that the union of opposites, such as conscious and unconscious, 


light and shadow, masculine and feminine, body and mind, and outer versus inner realities, 
leads to healing cleavages in the psyche, and creates a higher level of self-coherence. 
According to Hillman (2005), Davila (1999), and Robertson (2002), an individual's 
suffering takes place first in one's imagination, which has the capacity to create either 
health, or illness. From this perspective, Davila (1999) points out that health consists of 
holding together one's contradictions, and eventually synthesizing them. Davila' s point 
resonates with Jung's emphasis on the importance of holding the tension of the opposites 
until a "third" entity - or reconciling symbol - appears, which includes or resolves the 
conflict between the two poles, leading to the realization of greater wholness or balance in 
the person. (Jung speaks of the Transcendent function in the psyche as mediating these 
reconciling images or archetypal symbols which effect the healing of the inner conflict of 
opposites.) In my dissertation study, the six immigrant women's creative processes 
uncovered their unique ways of negotiating the dynamics between their own contradictions, 
with the ultimate purpose of constructing psychological health. 

Theme II examined the ways in which the aesthetic experience contributes to the 
healing process through uniting the outer, physical materials, with the women's inner world. 
In the immigrant women's case, the hybrid approach that I named "collage-painting" proved 
to be particularly suited to this task. These two mediums combined played an integrative 
role in the construction of women's identity by allowing them to assemble the disparate 
pieces of their experiences (under the form of fragments of photographs found in magazines 
or in personal albums) into a new whole. 

Another important facet of immigrant women's aesthetic experience was related to 
what Dissanayake (2002) calls "making special", that is, infusing an object with meaning by 


embellishing it. According to the author, the impetus to invest objects from an aesthetic 
point of view is a fundamental instinct possessed by all human beings. The six women's 
urge to make their creative experience and its final result "special" is evidenced by the 
aesthetic quality of the collages they produced, and by the time they invested in working on 
them. Both the women's care to render their final products "special" and the physicality of 
the materials seemed to enhance the healing process by permitting women to establish a 
concrete relation between their bodies and their imaginary worlds. 

The healing effect of the aesthetic experience was also due to the empathy 
experienced by women as they saw each other's images. Arnheim (1966) suggests that the 
physical forces we perceive in an art object are echoed in our body through our capacity of 
perception, and that the projection of a perceptual stimulus on the visual cortex creates in us 
an emotional reaction, through a configuration of electrochemical forces. In contrast to the 
professional artist's minimal opportunities to witness the reactions of the audience, the 
participants to the art therapy workshops had the opportunity to connect with the other group 
members in an immediate and direct manner. Experiencing the other women's empathy 
(including mine) permitted each woman to feel understood, welcomed and contained, thus 
enhancing the group dynamics, the bond between participants, and eventually the healing 

Theme III dealt with the application of Ehrenzweig's (1967) template to women's 
creative processes and revealed why the collage-making has been considered by the 
participants as one of the most profound experiences they had during the art therapy 
workshops. By demonstrating how, through its heroic descent into the unconscious during 
the creative process, the ego succeeds in gradually integrating previously disparate pieces of 


experience into consciousness, the author brings into light the similarity between the 
creative and the individuation processes - the ultimate purpose of both being the union of 
opposites within the psyche. Some women's images displayed symbols such as the child and 
the mandala, considered by Jung as representatives of the reconciliation of polarities within 
the psyche, which may lead to a greater psychic wholeness. For other women, this union 
manifested through other universal symbols of the Self, such as the house and the tree, or 
through the merger between such opposites as shadow and light. We can see here the 
possible resonance between Ehrenzweig's theory and Jung's theory of healing and 
individuation. The themes of descent and emergence of the creative libido parallel the 
heroine's separation and return - for example in the myth of Inanna's or Persephone's 
descent and emergence - and Jungian motifs of the need for numerous "healing regressions" 
- where rigid or defended aspects of the ego are dissolved and reconstituted into a stronger, 
and more whole personality - during the individuation process. 

The major finding that eventually emerged from the data analysis is that, used in the 
framework of art therapy, the hybrid medium of "collage-painting" is a privileged means for 
the reconstruction of immigrant women's identity. As mentioned in the review of literature, 
the medium of collage was preferred by several professional immigrant artists, perhaps 
because it symbolically parallels the way in contemporary identities are constructed. The 
technique of collage recalls Chambers' (1994) description of identity as an open, fragmented 
construction that is partly created in our imagination, an invented narrative with no final 
destination or referent outside of language. Chambers' view of identity evokes the 
postmodern notions of pastiche and textuality, defined as the breakdown between signified 
and signifier (Connor, 1989). However, although the surface (e.g. pastel fragments of 


images, photos, etc. ) of the collages created by the participants may partly reflect these 
concepts, they also differ from them, in that the use of paint creates in-depth linkages 
between fragments that unite surface and depth. The actual approach of "collage-painting" 
rather recalls Hillman's (2005) definition of the "narrative of the soul", which he describes 
as a careful collage of life fragments, which are transformed into "subtle matter" by the 
processes that characterize imagination. 

In the immigrant women collage-making process, the initial bricolage is submitted a 
second time to a complex painting process that transforms it into an organic whole (this 
painting process may involve linking, embedding, covering, or highlighting the images). 
This approach facilitates the participants' descent into the deeper layers of the psyche, a 
reality mirrored by the poetic quality of the final images. The six immigrant women's 
collages convey a sense of having been created through successive layers that matured over 
time, rather than by a surface assemblage. Indeed, the unctuous quality of the tempera paint, 
and the mesmerizing slowness required by the merger of photographs and paints by creating 
subtle linkages between them, kept women involved with their artwork for long periods of 
time. These conditions also contributed to creating an altered state of consciousness that 
facilitated their descent into unconscious depths that are hardly accessible in a normal, 
waking-state. This calls to mind the Jungian technique called "Active Imagination," which 
involves what Jung refers to as an attitude of "letting things happen in the psyche." This 
requires also a form of dimming or lowering of directive ego consciousness (equivalent to 
Ehrenzweig's "unconscious scanning"), which seems to allow the rising to the surface of 
inner dramas of inner figures, and the emergence of the healing or reconciling archetypal 
symbols bridging otherwise irreconciliable opposites or conflicts. It is important to note, 


however, that the word "Active" is key: despite this lowering of ego consciousness, and 
"letting things happen," the ego must participate actively with the figures of the inner 
fantasy, so that such active fantasy becomes a means of allowing, containing, and guiding 
the material emanating from the deeper layers of the unconscious. 

Accompanied by music, the process seemed to take-on a trance-like quality akin to 
meditation, which permitted participants to get in touch with long forgotten memories, 
sensations and emotions. These observations are based on both my witnessing the 
participants' processes and comments, and on my own experience with this particular 
mixed-media approach. Hillman wrote that the "narrative of the soul" had the capacity to 
mediate between one's imagination and the real world. In my perception, the approach of 
"collage-painting" fulfills this role through bringing together the concrete ready-made 
images and the more abstract medium of painting. 

Like the postmodern notion of bricolage, the collage mirrors our contemporary 
realities by holding together several fragments that used to exist separately, thus permitting 
the co-existence of various perspectives into a coherent visual whole, a multifaceted image. 
Compared to other approaches in art therapy, collage-making has the capacity to bring 
together disparate events, ideas, values, visions, emotions and memories into a new entity 
that has its own logic. The collages produced by the immigrant women seem to recall 
Herman' (1996) description of contemporary identity as a polyphonic, multivoiced novel. 

By giving each participant a certain sense of control over her creative process, the 
medium of collage allows them feel more self-confident about their capacity to express 
significant inner realities. In a first time, the approach of "collage-painting" brings together 
the concrete ready-made images; the more abstract medium of painting, during which a 


"descent" or lowering of normal waking consciousness seemed to be induced, allows 
participants to venture further into the unknown territories of their psyches. In conclusion, 
the nature of the media, the duration of the process, and the sense of accomplishment and 
meaningfulness derived from the more profound processes that may lead to the union of 
opposites in the psyche, confer this approach with a healing dimension. 

As far as this thesis is concerned, I found that it permitted me to assemble through a 
similar approach to that of collage-painting, the aspects of my personal and professional 
background that I used to experience as irreconcilable, the work on this dissertation 
appeared to me similar to the hybrid approach of "collage-painting." As mentioned earlier, 
in contrast to collage - a postmodern notion that alludes to the breach of relationship 
between surface and depth - the approach of collage-painting contributes to re-create the 
relation between surface and depth. The role of painting is to establish profound and 
meaningful links between fragments. Like the immigrant women who participated in this 
study, I patiently incorporated my ingredients over time, until they merged together into a 
more organic whole. 

Until recently, I often practiced my three professions - art therapist, social worker, 
and visual artist - separately, perceiving them as three different facets of my identity. On 
the other hand, being an immigrant did not influence in any visible way my professional life, 
except for sporadic periods of time when I worked with immigrant populations. Today I 
view these elements as the disparate pieces that participated in the creation of a larger 
whole, which is represented in the outer world by my dissertation, and paralleled in my 
psyche by a more integrated self-identity. I also imagine the various pieces that constitute 


my identity as ingredients for a chocolate cake, which, after having been cooked to a 
relatively high temperature, can be hardly distinguished as separate entities. 

As I was working on this dissertation, I became aware of the necessity to define, 
assume, and enjoy my own "hybridity," and the type of experiences it brought about. As I 
was making efforts to describe, and then synthesize the learning derived from both my 
personal and professional experiences, I also became more conscious of how important it 
was, in terms of self-coherence, to make sense of the knowledge acquired throughout one's 
life by integrating it on an ongoing basis into a new whole. Thus, the thesis research, study, 
workshops and writing became for me a narrative I was construing, as a means for becoming 
more complete, with the purpose of ensuring my inner and outer cohesion. 

My hybrid identity, which over time became a manner of being-in-the-world, also 
motivated my desire to integrate into my dissertation knowledge developed by fields related 
to art therapy, an interest that is embedded in the review of literature that supports my 
research project. 

I experienced the process that lead to the completion of this dissertation as similar to 
creating an artwork. My hybrid identity, motivated my desire to bring the knowledge 
developed by related fields to the ground of art therapy. At the moment of concluding it, I 
realized that, like every creative endeavor, it remains a "work in progress," which is subject 
to further improvement. As pointed out by Ehrenzweig, the humble acceptance of the 
imperfection of his or her work eventually prompts the artist to undertake a new cycle of 
creativity that might bring it to a higher level of integration. I hope that in the future, this 
project will encourage both me and other art therapists to explore further the contribution of 


art therapy to the work with immigrant people, and contribute to the empowerment of other 
immigrant women. 




Artistic experience and the unconscious 

Jung used to believe that the act of creation was controlled by laws of nature that, on 
the deepest level, correspond to the laws of psyche and vice-versa. According to him, the 
unconscious proves its value only when it is balanced by the experience of the individual's 
consciousness (cited by Jaffe 1964). 

According to Jaffe (1964), we respond to an art object only when our unconscious 
has been moved. Following Jung, she compares the role played by the art object in our 
aesthetic experience to a 'dark empty vessel' that receives the projections of the 
unconscious. Its capacity to fascinate us can be compared to the old alchemical notion of 
'spirit in the matter'. The artist's aspiration to attend to the hidden life beneath the 
appearances is paralleled by Yaffe to the alchemists' belief that inanimate objects are 
inhabited by spirit (p. 72). 

Art as medicine 

It is perhaps from the right relationship between the conscious and the unconscious 
as defined by Jung or, as Dewey puts it, from the 'juste milieu' between the two - that 
springs the healing capacity of art. The ultimate purpose of art therapy is exactly this - 
creating a balance between these two opposite forces of the psyche. From the perspective of 
art therapy and depth psychology, McNiff (1992) writes that "pairing art and medicine 
stimulates the creation of a discipline through which imagination treats itself and recycles its 
vitality back to daily living." 


According to Davila (1999), the clinical efficacy of art consists in its possibility to 
draw on imagination and on the human being's capacity for fiction, a quality that 
characterizes both creativity and illness. In his view, art as medicine implies the notion of a 
process that pertains to both. Similar to the human being's capacity to create, health implies 
the courage to confront, follow, revise, and act in a positive manner with regard to the 
contradictory physical events that have occurred. Frechuret and Davila (1999) state that art 
has the capacity to restore both the broken psychic balance and deteriorated physical health. 
Along with Dewey (1980), and Gadamer (2000), they emphasized the decisive role played 
by the relationship between the viewer and the artist with respect to healing. 

The elements of the aesthetic experience 

According to Dissanayake (1999), current neurobiological findings have proven that 
a sensation of communion is created between the viewer and the art object. Dissanayake 
points out that artistic experience is communicated to the viewer through the concept of 
empathy that she defines as the connection between the emotional experience of arts, the 
mind and the body. Both Wolheim and Melanie Klein have emphasized the fact that, when 
an art object is endowed with expressive meaning we tend to see it corporeally. 

The activity of "making special" (embellishing an object through a creative activity) 
is viewed by Dissanayake as a way of heightening the object's emotional effect and of 
emphasizing its importance and significance. The activity of "making special" is akin to 
play and ritual, and involves the participation of the body. According to the author, this 
activity represents a vital human necessity: she argues that from a psychobiological point of 
view, the response to a naturally aesthetic element is not considered to be an aesthetic 
experience, unless it is made special in a specific context. 


The Hero 's myth 

According to Jung, the myths that describe the Hero's journey into the underworld in 
search of a "treasure hard to attend" can be viewed as accounts of the process of 
individuation. Sandner (1991) notes that the symbolic cycle of death and rebirth, which 
forms the basic structure of all Hero's myths, explains and gives meaning to human 
suffering and it also suggests a valuable approach to psychological healing. All Hero myths 
display a similar basic pattern comprising three stages: separation, initiation, and return 
(Campbell 1973, p. 91). The Hero is prompted to leave the familiar and to venture into the 
unknown. The journey entails some sort of symbolic death that helps him to achieve 
separation. After being confronted with various ordeals, the hero is eventually rewarded for 
his success with supernatural benefits. The third stage, the return, is the justification of the 
whole journey; it entails the hero's moral obligation to give up his personal benefits and 
bring the boon to the ordinary world, to his family, village, or community (Noel, 1991). 

Contemporary narratives are viewed as similar to the myths of traditional societies; 
they account of displacement, disorientation and agency in the contemporary world (Pearce 
& Kang, 1987; Appadurai, 1996). 

The immigrant and the artist as postmodern heroes 

Lippard (1990) compares the expatriate with "a postmodern hero who excels in the 
art of bricolage, of the collage of life, keeper in the ongoing present of an album bearing the 
fragile leaves of the past" (p. 122). Like the mythic Hero, the immigrant and the artist alike 
are forced to descend into the unconscious in order to fetch the creative treasure that will 
contribute to his psychological healing and transformation, and hopefully in a second time, 
to the spiritual restoration of his community. For the immigrants, the journey often results, 


as Sommer (2004) puts it, in developing a "bitter-sweet maturity through their capacity to 
tolerate loss, and the acceptance of pain as a natural ingredient of one's psychic life." 
According to Sommer, accepting suffering is akin to daily life creativity. As for the artist, as 
Ehrenzveig (1967) has demonstrated through his in depth analysis of the creative process, 
the courage of descending into the unconscious (initiation) is rewarded with a greater 
capacity to hold opposites and to convey it through the finished art object to another human 
being, the viewer (return). 

Exile, creativity and healing 

The literature on exile and creativity suggests that many immigrant artists have 
succeeded in transforming the experience of displacement into a process of personal 
transformation (Lippard, 1990; Gendron, 1996; Nochlin, 1998). The immigrant artists' work 
seems to convey their preoccupation with integrating several elements belonging to two or 
more cultures into new artistic forms, which come to reflect their identities. The collage in 
its various forms appears to be a privileged technique in the works of certain immigrant 
artists (see the images from the art exhibition entitled "Tracing Cultures", and Lippard' s 
examples of immigrant artists). 

Collage, and Bricollage 

These two concepts - or approaches - are associated with the postmodern culture, 
which "ceaselessly reshuffles the fragments of preexistent texts, the building blocks of older 
cultural and social productions, in some new and heightened bricolage..." ( Connor 1989, p. 
47). Levi-Strauss's notion of bricolage illustrates the manner in which multiple pieces are 
assembled into a whole: "The bricoleur labors not systematically as would a scientist but as 
a handyman, jerry-rigging a solution with the materials he finds at hand" (quoted in Gregg 


2006, p. 73). In visual arts, the medium of collage implies bringing together heterogeneous 
images and media or technologies (e.g. Rauschenberg's collages). The collage-making 
permits the artist to cluster significant events and imaginative fragments in one image, and 
to communicate reality in a more direct, precise, and bold manner than words (Connor, 

. Hybrid identity 
On a psychological and cultural level, the immigrant's hybrid identity resembles 
collage. Babha (1996) defines the composite culture developed by the immigrants as a 
"culture in-between," which bridges the two initial "part" cultures, and leads to the 
construction of a hybrid identity that contain elements of both. As Doris Sommer (2004) 
puts it, "those on the move (go) sometimes back and forth to homes... on both sides... [and] 
describe themselves as half of one identity, half of another, and half of an additional 
something else (p.48). 



The information below has been given to the social workers, medical doctors, nurses, 
and clients of the CLSC Park Extension - a social work agency in Montreal - with the 
purpose of recruiting the immigrant women who participated in Workshop 3. 

Terre d'Accueil: A Pilot Project at the CLSC Park Extension, Montreal 
Conducted by Vera Heller, MA, S W, ATR 
This presentation is intended to inform the social workers, medical doctors, nurses, and 
clients of the CLSC Park Extension that an eight week art therapy workshop designed for 
immigrant women will be held on a weekly basis in the CLSC; please forward this 
information to your clients or patients who may benefit from their participation in this group 
process () 

This workshop titled "Exile, Identity, and Artistic Creation," will be conducted by 
Vera Heller, social worker and art therapist in the framework of a Ph.D. qualitative research 
in Expressive Therapies, with the purpose of (a) exploring the contribution of art therapy in 
women's re-appropriation of their identity following immigration (b) fighting social 
isolation and create a sense of community (c) preventing immigrant women from developing 
depressive symptoms as a consequence of their isolation (d) stimulating women's self- 
development mental health problems. 

- The goal of this pilot project is to explore the use of art therapy in psychosocial 
intervention with immigrant women. 

- Having been conceived as a means for preventing social isolation and depression as a 
result of women's migratory situation, 'Terre d'accueil" is viewed as a proactive project. 


- The art therapy workshop will offer immigrant women from Park Extension neighborhood 
the opportunity to describe their migratory experiences, and express related emotions 
through art, with the purpose of integrating them into their current identities. 

- The art therapeutic process is meant to contribute to immigrant women's sense of 
empowerment, by giving them the possibility to re-discover and value their personal 
qualities and strengths, and improving their capacity to resolve their problems both on an 
individual and collective basis. 


- Women between 18 and 55-years-old, having some knowledge of French and/or English. 

- Women with, or without children; the C.L.S.C will facilitate a day care service if 


- The social workers and medical doctors can hand their recruitment forms, included hereby, 
to Yves Seguin, ambulatory program coordinator. 

- The women will be met and interviewed by Vera, prior to the beginning of the group; if 
they wish, they can be accompanied by their social worker to this first encounter, which may 
take place either at their house, or at the CLSC, depending on the participant's availability. 

- Two schedules will be proposed to the prospective participants during the first interview. 
Vera will establish the workshop schedule according to the choice made by the majority. 

- It seems adequate that the project be integrated within the social worker's intervention 
plan. Thus, Vera may contact the referents during the project, if necessary. 

- A group file may be opened for this group at the C.L.S.C. Park Extension, if the 
administration wishes to do so. 


- Due to the low level of participation in workshops registered in the past by the CLSC, Vera 
will call the participants before each session, in order to remind them that the workshop will 
take place next day. 

- The recruitment process will take place between now and the 15 th of March 2004. 


- Eight weeks, between the 19 th of March and the 8 th of May 2004. 

Other Information 

- The project includes an individual interview prior to the beginning of the workshop and a 
final interview after the end of the workshop. 

- All the materials are free of charge for the participants, and the artwork belongs to them. 

- The participants will be required to sign consent forms for release of artworks, which will 
give Vera permission to take photographs of the images and - if necessary - use them, 
together with women's comments about the images, in her dissertation. 



This report has been written at the end of Workshop 3, for the CLSC Park Extension, 
Montreal. It describes the use of art therapy in conjunction with cross-cultural social work; 
this hybrid approach was meant tofullfill the specific needs of this social work agency, 
which is situated in one of Montreal's largest multicultural communities. 

Terre d'accueil : Rapport du projet pilote d'art therapie au CLSC Pare Extension 
(Dans le cadre du projet de recherche Exit, identite et creation) 


Vera Heller, travailleuse sociale et art therapeute, 

Candidate au doctorat en therapies expressives 

(Rapport ecrit en collaboartion avec Anne Van Den Boschelle, 

Travailleuse sociale au C.L.S.C. Pare Extension) 


« Terre d'accueil » est un projet-pilote de nature proactive, qui utilise conjointement 
l'intervention psychosociale - telle que pratiquee en CLSC - et Part therapie. Ce projet est 
le resultat de ma reflection au sujet de l'intervention interculturelle en CLSC, et son objectif 
principal est la prevention des problemes de sante mentale chez les femmes immigrantes de 
Pare Extension. D est base sur 20 annees d'experience dans la pratique du travail social et de 
l'art therapie, et fait partie de la derniere etape de mon projet de doctorat en Therapies 
expressives a 1 'Universite Lesley, Cambridge, MA, EU. Ce projet a ete rendu possible grace 
a la collaboration de mes collegues du CLSC Pare Extension, et des efforts enthousiastes de 
Anne Van Den Boschelle, travailleuse sociale au meme CLSC, ainsi qu'a l'accueil que lui a 
fait 1' administration de l'etablissement. 

Une des visees de ma recherche est d'utiliser l'art therapie en tant qu'outil novateur 
d'intervention interculturelle en CLSC, et d'etudier l'impact de cette approche aupres d'une 
clientele pour laquelle l'expression verbale presente des difficultes, autant en raison de la 


langue qu'en termes culturels. Pour les femmes de plusieurs communautes, cela ne fait pas 
partie des coutumes que de parler ouvertement de son vecu, et surtout a des etrangeres. Par 
exemple, une femme d'origine nord-africaine a cesse tout contact avec le CLSC de son 
quartier le jour ou elle s'y est presentee pour des questions concernant son enfant, et que la 
travailleuse sociale lui a demande de facon directe si elle avait des problemes de violence 

Mes collegues et moi, nous avons souvent rencontre, au cours de notre pratique, des 
difficultes a evaluer rapidement et de facon precise la problematique reelle des femmes qui 
se presentaient au CLSC. Cette situation est due, comme nous l'avons deja mentionne, a des 
caracteristiques culturelles et linguistiques de cette clientele. Ces difficultes entrainent une 
depense supplemental de temps et d'energie sans qu'on arrive toujours a obtenir les 
resultats escomptes. Les difficultes inherentes a la pratique du travail social aupres des 
femmes immigrantes, ainsi que mon experience avec Part therapie, m'ont inspires le desir de 
mettre sur pied un projet de groupe conjuguant les deux types d' intervention. Ma recherche 
aupres de plusieurs groupes de femmes immigrantes au Quebec et dans d'autres pays a 
renforce ma conviction que cette approche est efficace, rapide et adaptee a la clientele du 
quartier Pare Extension. 

L'idee de ce projet est nee lors d'une reunion de l'equipe famille-enfance-jeunesse 
au CLSC Pare Extension, de laquelle je faisais moi-meme partie. L'equipe des travailleurs 
sociaux exprimait qu'il serait utile de former un groupe s'adressant aux femmes du quartier, 
qui vivaient souvent une precarite extreme au niveau economique, social et culturel mais 
surtout, qui ne parvenaient pas a s'integrer a la societe d'accueil. Au meme moment, nous 
participions a une formation qui pronait l'approche interculturelle, mais surtout une maniere 


proactive d'amener les gens a se mobiliser. C'est ainsi que les visees de mon propre projet 
se sont finalement conjuguees avec les besoins exprimes par l'equipe, donnant comme 
resultat «Terre d 'accueil», un projet qui vise a integrer les competences de la travailleuse 
sociale avec les habiletes cliniques et techniques de l'art therapeute. 

Profil general de la communaute 

Le quartier Pare Extension reunit plusieurs aspects qui provoquent la detresse 
psychologique des families : faible revenu, difficultes d' integration, emplois souvent 
precaires et difficiles a trouver, faible scolarisation chez une grande partie de la population. 
Selon un document publie par la Ville de Montreal «Portrait d'un quartier sensible : Quartier 
Pare Extension » publie en 2002 suite au recensement, 50% de la population a moins de 35 
ans, versus 20.5% a Montreal, ce qui laisse supposer un potentiel de changement et de 
developpement des membres de la communaute. Plus de 9 habitants / 10 sont d'une origine 
autre que britannique, francaise, quebecoise ou autochtone. On a enregistre plus de 75 
communautes, dont les plus proeminentes sont d' origine grecque, indienne, et hai'tienne. 
50% des habitants du quartier font partie des minorites visibles. Le quartier compte le plus 
de families avec enfants a Montreal. Seulement 29% des families sont monoparentales, 
versus la situation dans le reste de la ville de Montreal, ou le pourcentage s'eleve a 50%. Les 
habitants de Pare Extension sont les moins scolarises de la ville. La sous scolarisation est 
plus repandue chez les femmes entre 25 et 40 ans, car seulement l A a 9 ans de scolarite. 

Clientele visee 

La clientele visee est composee de femmes deja suivies par une travailleuse sociale a 
moyen ou long terme, en raison de leur vulnerability au niveau de la sante mentale. Ces 
femmes sont issues de Pare Extension, un des 1 1 quartiers les plus pauvres de Montreal. Un 


grand nombre d'entre elles sont confinees a leur foyer, et vivent un isolement aigu qui 
menace leur sante mentale. Elles ont souvent plusieurs enfants, ne parlent que leur langue 
maternelle, ou possedent des faibles connaissances de l'anglais. Elles vivent des problemes 
d'identite causes par des changements drastiques au niveau de leurs fonctions parentales, 
maritales, familiales et sociales. 

Criteres de selection 

1 . Femmes immigrantes de Pare Extension ayant un suivi psychosocial avec une travailleuse 
sociale qui acceptent que ce projet fasse partie de leur plan d' intervention 

a) ayant vecu des difficultes d' adaptation inherentes au processus migratoire (i.e. 
pertes, deuils, changements dans les roles parentaux et sociaux, perte de statut, 
difficultes interpersonnelles et d' integration a la societe d'accueil) 

b) presentant une fragilite au niveau de la sante mentale 

c) souffrant d'isolement 

d) acceptant de participer a une entrevue devaluation 

Objectifs d' intervention 

1 . La prevention des problemes de sante mentale 

2. Favoriser le developpement de l'estime de soi 

3. Briser la solitude 

Moyens utilises pour I'atteinte des objectifs 

1. L'utilisation des schemes specifiques a la culture d'origine pour comprendre la 

representation que la femme s'est construite par rapport a la societe d'accueil 

2. L'utilisation des connaissances apprises en ethnopsychiatrie, voulant que le 


processus de guerison est plus efficace lorsqu'on se refere aux methodes de 
guerison utilisees dans le pays d'origine 

3. L'utilisation des techniques d' intervention interculturelle specifiques a la pratique 
du travail social 

4. L'utilisation de l'approche de l'art therapie conjuguee a 1' intervention 


a) expression du vecu par des moyens visuels 

b) echange verbale suite a l'activite creative 
Objectifs generaux de pratique interculturelle 

1. Utiliser l'approche proactive 

2. Liberer une partie de 1'energie et du temps investis en intervention individuelle 
par l'emploi de l'approche de groupe 

3. Mettre l'accent sur l'aspect collectif du vecu des femmes immigrantes 

3. Offrir aux femmes l'opportunite d'exprimer leur vecu de facon non menacante 
Objectifs generaux de recherche 

1. Etudier l'impact de l'art therapie dans l'intervention interculturelle 

2. Etudier l'impact de l'art therapie dans l'approche proactive en sante mentale 

Contenu des rencontres et calendrier 
lere rencontre : 19 mars 2004 

Thematique : Qui je suis ? 

Objectif: Permettre a chaque femme de se presenter au groupe en toute liberie, en 
laissant a chacune la latitude de choisir ce qui lui semble important de faire savoir aux 


autres. II s'agit d'une demarche d'acclimatation a l'intervenante, au groupe, au lieu et au 

Medium : Pastel 
2eme rencontre : 26 mars 2004 

Thematique : Qui je suis ? (Suite) 

Objectif: permettre a chaque femme de parler de son role de mere, d'epouse et de 
femme au sein de la societe d'origine et de la societe d'accueil, en favorisant les interactions 
du groupe. D s'agit ici de creer un lieu ou similitudes et divergences creent des liens entre 
les femmes. 

Medium : gouache 
3eme rencontre : 2 avril 2004 

Thematique : Suis-je d'ici ou d'ailleurs, mes enfants sont-ils d'ici ou d'ailleurs? 

Objectif: permettre a chaque femme de determiner ou elle en est dans son processus 
d'immigration et les perspectives qu'elle envisage pour l'avenir de ses enfants. II s'agit ici 
d'aborder la question de la prise en charge des enfants, qui constitue souvent un point d'une 
importance vitale au sein du processus d'immigration 

Medium : gouache 
4eme rencontre : 9 avril 2004 - la Fete de Paques 

Malgre le conge de Paques, les femmes ont voulu maintenir 1' atelier et les 
intervenantes qui suivaient les femmes se sont melees au groupe pour organiser un diner 

Thematique : Le partage d'un repas compose de plats de diverses origines avec les 
enfants et les intervenantes associees au projet. 



1. Permettre a chaque femme d'exprimer sa creativite a travers la preparation d'un repas 

2. Permettre a chaque femme de se valoriser dans son role de mere en presentant ses enfants 
aux autres femmes du groupe 

1 . Permettre aux femmes de sortir et de rencontrer les autres dans un contexte de fete 
5eme rencontre : 16 avril 2004 

Thematique : Pourquoi ai-je immigre et dans quelles conditions (par quelles voies) 
suis-je arrivee au Quebec ? 

Objectif: D s'agit d'aborder la question centrale du projet d'immigration, des 
dispositions psychologiques dans lesquelles se trouvaient les femmes au moment de leur 
immigration, le processus d'adaptation (qui se fait, ou ne se fait pas), les comportements de 
deni et le choc migratoire. 

Medium : au choix 
6eme rencontre : 23 avril 2004 

Thematique : Comment vivre avec ma souffrance ? 

Objectif: La souffrance est le moteur du changement : quelles sont les raisons qui 
motivent la souffrance des femmes et secretent le stress. D s'agit d'identifier les facteurs 
aggravants : le manque de reseau social, les problemes de sante physique et mentale et le 
manque d'estime de soi qui en resulte 

Medium : au choix 
7 erne rencontre : 30 avril 2004 

Thematique : Qu'est ce qui me donne l'espoir que les choses vont changer ? 


Objectif: D s'agit pour les membres du groupe d'accepter l'idee qu'il est possible 
que les choses aillent mieux; de laisser monter l'espoir qui emerge de la souffrance. Le 
groupe permet d' aider la femme a identifier les realisations de sa vie et de s'exprimer sur les 
projets d'avenir. 

Medium : production graphique avec support de l'ecriture 
Seme rencontre : 7 mai 2004 

Thematique : Effectuer un bilan personnel de 1'ensemble de la demarche et les 
resultats concrets qui s'en degagent 

Objectif: D s'agit pour les femmes de reviser individuellement le cheminement 
qu'elles ont fait au sein du groupe a partir des dessins, des productions ecrites et des murales 
produites. Le groupe precede egalement a un bilan des interactions qui ont caracterise les 
rencontres et en tire des apprentissages 

Medium : production graphique avec support de l'ecriture 
9eme rencontre : 4 juin 2004 - Exposition de cloture 

Thematique : Exposer les resultats de la demarche aux intervenants du CLSC ainsi 
qu'a la famille et aux amies invitees par les participantes au groupe 
Presentation de 1'ensemble des productions visuelles realisees par les femmes 

Objectif: E s'agissait pour les femmes de choisir si elles desirent que leurs oeuvres 
soient exposees : dans ce cas ci, elles ont emis le desir de passer a Taction et une exposition 
a ete organisee, en presence du personnel du CLSC, des membres de la families et des 
amies. Soraya Benitez, une chanteuse d'origine venezuelienne bien connue au Quebec, a ete 
invitee a donner un petit concert. 


Calendrier de developpement du projet 





Exploration du projet 

Rencontre avec Jean-Pierre Bordeleau, Directeur 
des services ambulatoires 


Presentation du projet 

Rencontre avec l'equipe des services ambulatoires 

16 novembre 

Presentation du projet 

Rencontre avec Jean-Pierre Bordeleau, DSA 

9 decembre 

OK de la Direction du 
CLSC pour le projet 

Rencontre avec Jean-Pierre Bordeleau, DSA 

26 fevrier 

Validation du projet, 
commentaires et 

Rencontre avec l'equipe des services ambulatoires 

5 mars 2004 


Rencontres individuelles avec les intervenants pour 
discussion sur references et plans d'intervention 

Du 5 mars au 
15 mars 2004 


Rencontres individuelles avec les femmes pour 
juger de la recevabilite de leur demande et de leur 
integration possible au groupe 

Du 19 mars 
au 9 avril 

Intervention de groupe 

Rencontres avec les femmes et fete familiale 

Du 12 avril 
au 15 avril 

Evaluation mi-projet 

Rencontres avec quelques intervenantes referentes 
pour 1'evaluation mi-projet 

16 avril au 
07 mai 2004 

Intervention de groupe 

Rencontres avec les femmes 


14 mai au 03 
juin 2004 

Bilan du prqjet et 
preparation fete de 

Rencontres avec un sous-comite issu du groupe, 
quelques intervenants et professionnels externes 
pour la mise sur pied de l'exposition 


Exposition et fete de 

Realisees par le groupe lui-meme et les 
intervenantes travaillant aupres de ces femmes 

4 juin au 15 

Bilan du projet 

Echanges avec les intervenants des services 
ambulatoires et redaction 

22 septembre 

Presentation des 
resultats et perspectives 

Rencontre avec Marie Gibeault, Directrice des 
services ambulatoires 

Analyse des resultats : Indices de frequentation (presence au groupe) 


Nbre de 
Nbre total 

Commentaire general 

Numero 1 : Y 


Participation au groupe dans le cadre d'un plan d' intervention 

Numero 2 : S 


Participation au groupe dans le cadre d'un plan d' intervention 

Numero 3 : M 


Participation au groupe dans le cadre d'un plan d' intervention 

Numero 4 : A 


Participation au groupe dans le cadre d'un plan d'intervention 

Numero 5 : R 


Participation au groupe dans le cadre d'un plan d'intervention 

Numero 6 : A 


Etait en voyage pendant le reste du temps 

Numero 7 : V 


Participation au groupe dans le cadre d'un plan d'intervention 


Numero 8 : M 


Suivie, difficultes conjugates ayant contrecarre son projet 

Numero 9 : S 


Plan d' intervention, absente deux fois pour cause de maladie 

Numero 10 : 


Plan d'intervention, referee en psychiatrie pendant le projet 

Numero 1 1 : 


Plan d'intervention, manque de motivation 

Numero 12 : L 


Suivie par psycho-educatrice, deuils repetes, difficultes 

Numero 13 :C 


Participation au groupe dans le cadre d'un plan d'intervention 

Resultats obtenus 
Participante 1 : Y 

Profit de la cliente : Y est d'origine haitienne, deux enfants, fine vingtaine. 
Difficultes rencontres : Depression, a immigre contre sa volonte, actuellement 
monoparentale, problemes recurrents de violence familiale. Elle est moyennement 

Points forts : Chaleureuse, beaucoup de potentiel, suscite la sympathie du 
Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Diminution de la depression (plus grande facilite a 
verbaliser sur ses difficultes). 

Au niveau de I'estime de soi : Le groupe lui a reflete une image positive d'elle- 
meme, qu'elle a accepte. 


Au niveau de Visolement : Elle a trouve au sein du groupe un lieu de socialisation et 

c'est elle qui a exprime le plus de deception lorsqu'elle a appris que l'atelier d'art 

therapie ne continuera pas apres les huit semaines prevues initialement. 
Participante 2 : S 

Profil de la cliente : Y est d'origine pakistanaise, dans la vingtaine; elle a deux 


Difficulties rencontres : Violence conjugale, refugiee au Canada. Elle est tres isolee, 

et moyennement scolarisee. 

Points forts : Humour, intelligence, capable d'interagir au niveau interpersonnel, 

interet pour l'expression visuelle, 
Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Elle sent qu'elle a trouve un lieu ou elle peut 

s'exprimer sans etre jugee, ce qui l'a reconfortee. 

Au niveau de I'estime de soi : Le groupe l'a trouvee attirante et creative ; elle a gagne 

en assurance pendant le projet. 

Au niveau de Visolement : elle exprime une grande satisfaction de se retrouver en 

groupe et souhaiterait continuer a s'impliquer. Pendant le projet, elle a trouve une 

dame plus agee avec laquelle elle s'est installee et qui souhaite l'aider. 
Participante 3 : M 

Profit de la cliente : Y est d'origine acadienne, un enfant en grande difficulte. Fin de 

la trentaine, moyennement scolarisee. 


Difficultes rencontrees : deuils non resolus, la relation avec l'ex-conjoint l'a fait 

souffrir, ne sait pas si elle doit vivre au Quebec ou au Nouveau Brunswick, ce qui 

entraine beaucoup d'insecurite chez son enfant. 

Points forts : Chaleur humaine, authenticity. 
Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Cette dame vivait certaines difficultes a s'adapter au 

Quebec. A la fin du projet, elle a decide de retourner vivre au Nouveau Brunswick et 

semblait pleinement en accord avec sa decision. 

Au niveau de Vestime de soi : Elle vivait avec une femme qui ne la valorisait pas du 

tout et est parvenue a s'en detacher. Elle a aussi ete valorisee par le groupe qui aimait 

son charisme et son franc-parler. 

Au niveau de Visolement : Elle a pu decouvrir au sein du groupe qu'elle dispose de 

capacites interpersonnelles pour se faire des amies. 
Participante 4 : A 

Profil de la cliente : A est d'origine dominicaine, deux enfants adolescents, fin 

trentaine, peu scolarisee. 

Difficultes rencontrees : Pauvrete et faible estime d'elle meme a cause du manque de 

travail. Une certaine nostalgie par rapport a son pays. 

Points forts : Vivacite, humour, interet pour 1'expression visuelle et creativite, tres 

impliquee au niveau de different groupes communautaires de Pare Extension. 


Resultats a la fin du pro jet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Cette dame se sentait devalorisee a cause de la 

pauvrete. Elle a reussi a trouver un travail a la fin du projet. Le groupe l'a 

encouragee et stimulee a ce sujet. 

Au niveau de I'estime de soi : ses capacites de communication, autant au niveau 

verbal que visuel, ont ete valorisees par le groupe. Elle a su initier des echanges sur 

des themes tels que le developpement des capacites parentales et les relations de 


Au niveau de I'isolement: N'avait pas de problemes a ce niveau. 

Participante 5 : R 

Profil de la cliente : R est d'origine bengali, deux enfants, fin vingtaine, peu 


Difficultes rencontrees : Isolement, depression, difficulte a accepter le handicap de 

son enfant. Elle a perdu ses deux parents et ses deux beaux-parents recemment. 

Points forts : Malgre une grande timidite, tres sociable, sensible a la valorisation, 

desir de partager. 

Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Cette dame a nettement presente moins de signes de 
depression a la fin du projet : manifestations d'ouverture aux autres, assiduite et 
interet marque pour ce qui se passera dans le quartier dans les prochains mois; elle a 
egalement diversifie ses moyens de communication. 


Au niveau de Vestime de soi : L' assurance acquise au sein du groupe lui a permis 

d'entreprendre des demarches au niveau medical. Certains problemes physiques 

alteraient son apparence et elle a decide de consulter. 

Au niveau de Visolement : Elle a utilise ses forces interieures pour creer de nouveaux 

liens. Jusqu'alors, elle se percevait comme une personne qui ne valait rien aux yeux 

des autres. 
Participante 6 : A 

Profil de la cliente : A est originaire du Bangladesh, deux enfants, fin vingtaine, 

mariee, moyennement scolarisee. 

Difficultes rencontrees : Se sent incapable de se valoriser dans la societe d'accueil de 

la meme facon que dans son pays. Elle est tres talentueuse en art mais est incapable 

de le pratiquer au Quebec pour des raisons pratiques (manque d' argent et soucis 


Points forts : Son talent artistique, autonomic, leadership, sociabilite, dynamisme, 

Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Elle a retrouve une valorisation de soi en travaillant 

avec l'art; c'est ce qu'elle a toujours privilegie et cela lui a fait beaucoup de bien. Ses 

productions artistiques on ete tres admirees par le groupe. 

Au niveau de Vestime de soi : L'intervenante lui a permis d'emporter du materiel a la 

maison pour qu'elle puisse enseigner a ses enfants son art et cela Pa grandement 

renforcee au niveau parental. 


Au niveau de Uisolement : Elle a grandement beneficie du support du groupe et 

souhaiterait a son tour, mettre sur pied son propre groupe pour femmes, axe vers la 

creation. Elle s'est impliquee dans des groupes de femmes au CLSC, et a reussi a 

partager son talent artistique et son leadership avec les autres participantes. 
Participante 7 : V 

Profd de la cliente : V est d'origine sri lankais, deux enfants en bas age, mariee, 

moyennement scolarisee. 

Difficultes rencontrees : Isolement social, a haut risque de depression. Elle est 

incapable d'exercer au Quebec son metier de decoratrice (pas de reconnaissance du 


Points forts : Sociable, dynamique; elle avait un grand desir de partager ses 

competences avec d' autres personnes. 
Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Prevention de la depression : L'intervenante a pergu 

qu'elle parvenait a se valoriser en pratiquant les techniques de decoration. 

Au niveau de I'estime de soi : A ete tres valorisee par le groupe et souhaite 

entreprendre des demarches pour se faire connaitre ailleurs. 

Au niveau de V isolement : Elle s'est fait une amie dans le groupe, mais il faut 

continuer a poursuivre cet objectif au sein de l'intervention individuelle avec son 

Participante 8 : M 

Profd de la cliente : M est d'origine pakistanaise, trois enfants dont un preadolescent, 

separee, fin vingtaine. 


Difficultes rencontrees : Depression chronique, difficultes au niveau parental, 
nombreux conflits avec la belle-famille. 

Points forts : Capable d'attirer la sympathie des autres, humour, parle parfaitement 
l'anglais et le francais, aime agir comme interprete aupres des autres femmes du 
groupe, autant au niveau de la langue qu'au niveau culturel. 

Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Au moment ou le groupe a debute, elle reflechissait a 
la possibilite de retourner vivre avec son mari. Le groupe l'a encouragee a se faire 
confiance et a prendre elle-meme ses decisions par rapport a sa relation maritale. 
Au niveau de Vestime de soi : Elle a ete honoree d' avoir ete choisie parmi les clientes 
du CLSC pour participer au groupe. Neanmoins, elle a eu beaucoup de problemes 
avec l'assiduite. 

Au niveau de I'isolement : Elle a continue sa demarche personnelle pour briser son 
isolement. Neanmoins, son manque d'assiduite l'a empechee de se faire de nouvelles 
amies au sein du groupe. 

Participante 9 : S 

Profil de la cliente : d'origine armenienne libanaise, cinquantaine, deux enfants 

adultes, dont un est place en famille d'accueil a temps plein a cause d'un handicap 


Difficultes rencontrees : Elle exprime une grande detresse par rapport a son histoire 

de vie (divorce et handicap de son enfant). Vit I'isolement et la depression. S'est fait 

recemment assaillir dans la rue, a peur de sortir. 


Points forts : tres sociable, s'exprime facilement, sait reconnaitre les emotions et les 
communiquer aux autres. 

Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : elle a trouve au sein du groupe un endroit ou elle 

peut partager sa detresse, ce qui a eu comme consequence de diminuer ses etats 

depressifs. Elle a reussi a inciter les autres a exprimer leur propre souffrance. 

Au niveau de Vestime de soi : Elle a pu partager avec les autres ses forces, i.e sa 

capacite d'exprimer sa souffrance par l'intermediaire de l'art, son amour pour sa 

culture d'origine, et ses travaux d'artisanat anterieurs. 

Au niveau de I 'isolement : Elle a reellement reussi a creer des liens avec les femmes 

asiatiques qui n'ont pas l'habitude d'exprimer leurs emotions negatives, et ceci l'a 

legitimee dans son processus de resilience. 

Participante 10 : M 

Profil de la cliente : gabonaise, a un enfant, separee, en attente d'une decision au 
niveau de son statut de refugiee. 

Difficultes rencontrees : Lors des deux rencontres, l'art therapeute a detecte a travers 
son expression visuelle quelques signes faisant penser a la possibilite d'une 
psychose. Apres deux rencontres, suite a une discussion de cas avec sa travailleuse 
sociale, Mme a ete referee a des services specialises en psychiatric 

Participante 11 : D 

Profil de la cliente : d'origine hai'tienne, deux enfants en bas age, debut quarantaine, 


Difficultes rencontrees : Souffre de depression et d'isolement social. 


Points forts : Mme arrive a etablir un premier contact de facon engageante, en parlant 

avec facilite de sa vie et de ses problemes. 
Resultats a la fin du pro jet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Mme a de la difficulte a maintenir les contacts. Elle 

manque d'assiduite et cela peut etre du a sa depression. Elle a abandonne apres deux 

Participante 12 : L 

Profil de la cliente : d'origine indienne, trentaine, mere d'un enfant en bas age ayant 

un handicap au niveau mental. Participe au groupe de stimulation d'Helene 

Laperrierre, psycho-educatrice, avec son enfant. 

Difficultes rencontrees : depression, deuils multiples dans les deux dernieres annees. 

Reste silencieuse par rapport a sa souffrance, meme avec Helene Laperriere, qu'elle 

connait comme intervenante depuis plusieurs annees. 

Points forts : grande capacite d'exprimer sa souffrance par des moyens visuels. 
Resultats a la fin du projet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : Malgre le fait que Mme n'a pas pu participer au 

projet que trois fois (a cause de sa participation au groupe de stimulation d'Helene 

Laperriere) elle a commence a exprimer son vecu de maniere verbale, apres la 

premiere session d'art therapie. Sa depression a diminue par la suite, et elle a pu 

suivre le plan d' intervention con$u par la psycho educatrice. 
Participante 13 : C 

Profil de la cliente : d'origine pakistanaise chretienne, fin trentaine, deux enfants 

adolescents, nouvellement arrivee au Quebec, moyennement scolarisee. 


Difficultes rencontrees : se sent isolee et cherche a s'integrer dans la societe 
d'accueil tout en prennent une distance par rapport au pays d'origine ou elle a vecu 
de la discrimination en tant que chretienne. On a deja emis a son egard l'hypothese 
d'une psychose paranoide a cause de son discours par rapport a son pays, ou elle 
s'est fait persecuter par la communaute musulmane majoritaire. 
Points forts : etablit le contact avec les autres facilement, parle parfaitement l'anglais 
et aime agir comme interprete. A reussi a bien s'integrer au groupe et y participer 
avec enthousiasme, malgre la presence de plusieurs femmes musulmanes, dont deux 
originaires de son pays. 

Resultats a la fin duprojet 

Au niveau de la sante mentale : a pu exprimer des sentiments de colere, de tristesse et 

de confusion par rapport a sa situation actuelle, et, selon la cliente, cela allege son 

sentiment d'isolement. 

Au niveau de Vestime de soi : elle s'est sentie valorisee par rapport a ses capacites de 

s'exprimer a l'aide des mediums visuels, ainsi que par rapport a son role de 

traductrice au sein du groupe. Sa personnalite a ete fort appreciee par les membres du 

groupe. A la fin du projet, elle s'est trouve un emploi dans le quartier. 

Au niveau de Visolement : elle est sortie de son isolement en partageant ses 

difficultes ainsi que ses points forts avec le groupe 

Participante 14 : M 

Profil de la cliente : d'origine hai'tienne, enceinte au moment de la reference, 
recemment arrivee au pays. 


Difficulty's rencontrees : accident de travail, depression, isolement, rapports de 
pouvoir au niveau de son couple qui jouent sur sa sante mentale. La cliente etait en 
evaluation par la CSST lors de la reference, et a du reprendre son travail apres la 
premiere rencontre 


Unique dans son genre, ce projet visait l'utilisation conjointe de la pratique en travail 
social en CLSC et l'approche de l'art therapie dans 1' intervention interculturelle. n 
misait sur ma connaissance des communautes culturelles de Pare Extension et 
privilegiait des modalites d'expression non menacantes, car indirectes, laissant aux 
participantes le soin de devoiler des aspects de leur vie privee et de leur vecu a leur 
propre rythme par le biais d'une activite creative. L'art therapie facilite la 
communication, l'augmentation de l'estime de soi, et la recherche de solutions 
constructives aux problematiques presentees par la clientele. De plus, 1'art therapie est 
reconnu comme moyen d' intervention clinique de choix en sante mentale, qui s'applique 
avec succes dans le cas ou l'expression verbale s'avere problematique pour differentes 

Le projet «Terre d'accueil » a atteint les objectifs vises. Malgre les barrieres de 
langue, de culture et de religion, les femmes ont reussi a communiquer 1'une avec l'autre - 
et cela, sans l'aide d'un interprete - en faisant appel uniquement aux ressources internes du 
groupe. Cela represente un grand benefice pour une communaute aussi diversifiee - en 
termes de composition ethnique - que le quartier Pare Extension, et prouve que les femmes 
de la communaute ont des ressources insoupconnees, qu'elles auraient avantage a 
developper et a utiliser comme une richesse personnelle et communautaire. Les resultats 


obtenus dans ce projet demontrent qu'il a contribue a ameliorer l'etat des participantes au 
niveau de leur sante mentale (ou du moins a prevenir une aggravation pour certaines d'entre 
dies), leur estime d'elles-memes, et qu'il a reussi a briser l'isolement des femmes 
immigrantes. Environ 80% des femmes qui ont participe au groupe ont fait preuve d'une 
assiduite qui en a etonne plusieurs, la moyenne de participation etant restee autour de sept 
participantes / session. A la fin du projet, en apprenant que le projet ne continuait pas, les 
participantes ont exprime leur deception ; la plupart ont dit avoir trouve dans ce groupe un 
lieu d'appartenance qu'elles n'avaient jamais eu auparavant. 

Une des femmes a commente que ce projet lui a fait se rememorer des souvenirs 
perdus de son enfance, et que cela l'a amenee a retrouver un plaisir qu'elle avait perdu. 
"Life is full of problems. In this workshop, for a few hours, you feel like a teenager again. 
You feel comfortable, somebody cares for you. I'm so happy." Une autre participante a 
apprecie le fait qu'elle ait pu partager ses preoccupations par rapport a ses enfants, a son 
manque de moyens financiers, et aux difficultes qu'elle vivait en relation avec les hommes. 
Elle a apprecie le support et les conseils des autres femmes. "It's fun. I feel so comfortable 
with the other women." Une troisieme a mentionne le fait qu'elle ne se sentait pas jugee. "In 
this group, I'm myself." 

Ce projet a aussi represente une belle experience de collaboration avec les 
travailleuses sociales du CLSC, qui ont fait des efforts pour recruter les participantes. Elles 
ont manifeste leur interet par rapport au deroulement hebdomadaire du projet, et ont garde 
ouverte la communication avec leur clientes pendant les neuf semaines de l'atelier d'art- 
therapie. Elles m'ont regulierement donne du feed-back, et m'ont fourni des informations 
cliniques m'aidant a comprendre la problematique de chaque femme. Plusieurs travailleuses 


sociales ont participe a la rencontre organisee pour Paques, et ont aide a son organisation, 
ainsi qu'a l'organisation de l'evenement de cloture. Je leur suis tres reconnaissante pour leur 
support continuel et leurs encouragements, et je voudrais leur remercier. Je veux aussi 
remercier a Helene Laperriere - psycho educatrice - qui m'a beaucoup aidee avec ses 
conseils. Je dois des remerciements particuliers a Anne VanDen Boschelle, qui - avec son 
inepuisable energie - a servi de consultante tout au long du projet, et a collabore a la 
redaction de ce rapport, veillant a ce qu'il soit conforme aux exigences du C.L.S.C. J'ai 
aussi apprecie l'ouverture manifested par 1' administration du C.L.S.C Pare Extension, qui a 
rendu possible ce projet avec les femmes immigrantes du quartier. 
Juin 2004 



Vera Heller 

Ph.D candidate in Expressive Therapies, Lesley University, Cambridge MA, USA 

Committee Members: Dr. Julia Byers, Chair; Ethne Gray; Dr. Susan Spaniol 

M.A. in Art Therapy, Concordia University, Montreal Que., Canada 
B.A. in Fine Arts, Concordia University, Montreal Que., Canada 
B.A. in Social Work, Laval University, Quebec, Que., Canada 

Vera Heller was born in Bucharest, Romania. At 23, she immigrated to Israel, and 
then to Toronto, Canada. After a transition in Quebec City, she eventually moved to 
Montreal, where she has worked for over twenty yeras as a social worker, art therapist, and 
psychotherapist. She currently works in private practice, as a psychotherapist, and 
counsellor for Employee Assistance Programs. 

In addition to her clinical work, for the past 16 years she organized and facilitated 
various thematic workshops for women. Amongst them, "My Life, an Artist's Book" - in 
which participants used the narrative potential of a series of images to re-create their life 
stories from a new and more actual perspective - and "Celebrating the Inner Artist" - a 
workshop meant to unblock and develop participants' creative potential. 

Parallel to her work as a mental health professional, Vera has maintained a studio 
parctice since 1983. As a visual artist, she participated in various group exhibitions, both in 
Quebec and abroad, and received grants from Quebec, and Canada Councils of arts. By 
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